Regina lead pipe replacement timeline still set for 2036 despite pushback

Click to play video: 'Regina lead pipe replacement timeline still set for 2036 despite pushback'
Regina lead pipe replacement timeline still set for 2036 despite pushback
The problem of lead in Regina’s drinking water has been a discussion point for many years in city hall and in the community, and it isn't ending anytime soon – Sep 6, 2023

The problem of lead in Regina’s drinking water has been a discussion point for many years at city hall and in the community.

An investigation led by Concordia University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism, published in 2019, found that tap water in Regina, Moose Jaw and Saskatoon had some of the highest measured levels of lead in Canada.

Regina city council voted in 2021 to implement a timeline for its Lead Service Connection Management Program (LSCMP) to replace all lead water service connections in Regina by 2036 for a cost of $36 million.

Patricia Elliot, with the Get Lead Out committee, is frustrated with the timeline the city has presented.

“The level of lead in household drinking water is unacceptable,” Elliot said. “2036 is unacceptable because people are going to be exposed for too long.”

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The lead in Regina’s water does not come from the treatment plant in Buffalo Pound, but rather the pipes and connections underground.

“It’s coming from city lines, and they have the responsibility (to fix it),” she said. “Other cities have stepped up and answered that responsibility much more quickly. The most effective solution is the permanent solution, which is to remove lead service connections.”

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Annual reports are supposed to be presented to city council to provide them with updates on the program.

On Wednesday, Regina’s executive council voted to receive updates on the removal of lead water connections every two years rather than annually.

The decision was a compromise between some councillors that wanted to continue receiving yearly updates and others who say receiving the reports on annual basis is an inefficient use of council’s time.

“It’s open-source data, that’s data that’s regularly available,” Regina mayor Sandra Masters said. “They have both provincial and council mandates to continue with the program. And if there were any anomalies, we would expect that to come in an update to council.”

Masters said part of the decision for 2036 as a timeline for removal comes from cost.

“We replace the roads at the same time and in some instances sidewalks as well,” Masters said. “So the expense of multiple different departments, multiple different budgets is significant.”

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For Elliot, the risk isn’t worth the cost savings.

“I think it’s really important for people to understand that although they cannot smell or see or taste lead in their water, it may be present in older neighbourhoods and it is a recognized health danger. It endangers children, especially.”

Prolonged exposure to lead can create health complications. Pregnant women and children under the age of six are most at risk.

“With some of the councillors, I don’t know how they sleep at night, how they continue to delude themselves that this is an effective way to manage a highly toxic substance in the drinking water,” Elliott said.

The amended motion must still be approved at the next meeting of city council, which is currently set for Sept. 13.

Click to play video: 'Regina residents renew call for faster lead pipe replacement'
Regina residents renew call for faster lead pipe replacement

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