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Everything Ottawa Homeowners Need to Know About the Lead Contamination in the Water Service Pipes

According to USA Today, the level of lead water contamination in Canada is even worse than it is in Flint, Michigan.

Are you an Ottawa homeowner who is unsure of the state of your water service pipes?

Here is everything Ottawa homeowners should know about lead in water pipes!

Why Lead Contamination Is a Problem

If you're not sure why lead contamination is a problem in Ottawa, allow us to enlighten you.

Lead is a highly toxic metal that can cause lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is a service health risk and can even be fatal.

The consequences of getting lead poisoning include:

  • Kidney damage
  • Reproductive problems
  • Fertility issues

Besides this, lead is especially dangerous to families with younger children too. Lead exposure can have adverse effects on their brain and nervous system development. Not to mention that it can cause serious blood pressure spikes as well!

Even the Ottawa government has admitted that lead contamination in the water service pipeline is a major issue.

So what’s exactly happening? Small amounts of lead can leak into your drinking supply when your water comes into contact with your house's brass fixtures, lead solder, and lead pipes. Yes, this includes your water service pipes as well.

Naturally, this has a disastrous impact on the quality of your drinking water. The Ottawa government confirmed that zero parts per billion (ppb) of lead are coming from the city's water treatment plant. This means that the contamination is happening during the water’s journey to your home.

It has been found that most homes in Ottawa have less than one ppb of lead within their tap water supply.

However, those that own older Ontario homes aren't as lucky. That's because anywhere between one to five ppb of lead has been found within these water service pipelines.

It gets worse. Some Ottawa homes can have lead concentration levels of over 10 ppb!

Despite the fact that water is "lead-free" until it hits your street's water main, about 30,000 Ottawa homes were built with lead water service pipes.

Here's the kicker. Not only will replacing lead-contaminated pipelines in Ottawa cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars, but it will also take many years.

How to Know If You Have Lead Water Pipes

When it comes to lead piping, it can be a bit difficult to find out if yours are contaminated or not. It is important to note that the water itself is not contaminated, the contamination happens when water comes in contact with plumbing fixtures and solder that include lead.

As lead can be hard to detect without a proper inspection, we highly recommend that you have your home water tested, especially if you take residency in an older home. Older homes are at higher risk of lead contamination due to the older plumbing practises and materials used.

When Did They Stop Using Lead Pipes?

In Canada, houses that were built before the mid-1950s have a much higher chance of lead pipe contamination than more modern homes. Here's what you should do next. For starters, hire a professional to conduct a lead water inspection of your house.

That way, they'll be able to tell how much lead is coming into your household. If you are in the market of buying a home, it is recommended to have a water lead inspection done before you buy. This is a surefire way to know the state of your pipes and prevent harmful lead contamination.

For those of you who prefer to test for lead yourself, there are a couple of ways to do this:

  • Buy a home test kit
  • Invest in an environmental lab test
  • Contact a lead risk assessor

Here's the deal about home test kits for testing lead water levels:

Home test kits will let you know if you have lead in your pipeline, but they won't let you know how much lead you have in your home. That being said, these test kits are available for purchase at building supply stores and hardware stores.

Investing in an environmental lab test can be a pricey and lengthy process. Your best bet: contact a lead risk assessor to get accurate and prompt results!

Preventing Lead Contamination in Your House

For those of you that already purchased home lead test kits, it's time to talk about the next steps to take. If your house has tested positive for lead, be sure to follow these tips to keep your loved ones safe:

  • Know your level of lead (if any). Although any sort of lead contamination is a problem, there are manageable levels and then there are extremely dangerous levels
    • Absolutely avoid using your water if the lead level is 5 ppb or above
  • Have your old pipes and plumbing fixtures inspected/replaced to prevent lead contamination. This can be done by your Ottawa plumbing professionals by calling (613) 746-0000 and requesting an inspection of your plumbing.
    • If it is found that you need to replace your water pipes, you may be eligible for the new rebate that will cover a portion of your replacement cost (up to $1000). Read below for more info.
  • Rinse out your pipes before using them (especially for drink/food)
  • Use Filter Kits - In the spring of 2020, the city of Ottawa will offer residents impacted with approximately a year’s supply of water filter to remove the lead from the drinking water. (Must have levels exceeding 5ppb to quality). Residents can call 3-1-1 to request a water quality test.

Have You Tested Your Drinking Supply For Contamination yet?

Lead can enter your water supply through the plumbing system as the components break down. This is moreso a risk for older homes as lead was used in these fixtures. If you receive a positive result for your water lead tests, have an Ottawa plumber inspect your plumbing system to determine where the lead contamination is taking place and for information on what the next steps should be to deal with the problem.

In the meantime, use a certified water filter to remove the lead in your water supply.

Signs of Lead Contamination at Home

So how can you tell if you have lead pipelines?

To tell you the truth, it can be incredibly hard to spot the signs of lead contamination in your home without a proper water contamination test. Besides hiring professional Ottawa plumbers for a thorough and conclusive plumbing diagnosis & inspection, if you are really keen on finding signs for yourself, here are a few red flags to keep an eye out for.

Take a peek at the pipelines inside of your household. This includes pipes that lead to the internal stop-tap and the kitchen tap. These are typically located underneath your kitchen sink.

For the uninitiated, lead pipes that are unpainted will look a dull gray and appear “soft”.

To help determine the material used for a pipe, If you (safely) scrape unpainted lead pipelines with a coin or a knife, you'll see silver-coloured, shiny metal beneath the surface. Make sure to properly clean up any of the lead chippings!

For further confirmation that the pipe is lead-based, gently tap your lead pipeline with a heavy, metal item. Do you hear a dull sound instead of a clear ringing sound? If yes, then you've got a potentially serious case of potential lead contamination on your hands.

Here's another rule of thumb. Those with copper pipelines will see a dull or bright orange colour if their pipes are contaminated.

Additionally, people with iron pipelines will spot a rusty, dark surface that directly points to lead contamination. Finally, homeowners with plastic pipelines will spy a black, blue, or gray colour on their pipes if they are contaminated with lead.

If they have any of the warning signs that we mentioned above, you'll want to contact a professional Ottawa plumber right away!

Although the above may indicate signs of lead contamination, it is recommended to have your water levels inspected as this will be the most effective way to firstly indicate if you have a lead problem. If you do have a problem, the above tips can help pinpoint the plumbing fixtures that are the culprits of the lead contamination.

Learning About Pipe Replacement Rebates

Before you phone an emergency plumbing service, it's probably a good idea to find out the pipe replacement rebate first. At the end of 2019, the Ottawa government agreed to provide an official replacement program for lead pipes.

The good news is that these changes will take effect as early as the spring of 2020. Here's what to expect. Fortunately, the local government in Ottawa will provide a rebate of approximately $1,000 to qualifying properties.

While that's only about 20 percent of the cost to replace the pipeline, it'll help private homeowners who rely on lead water pipelines for their drinking supply. The government rebate will also provide financing assistance for replacement and trenching costs.

This applies to homeowners who either:

  • Replaced the public part of their lead-contaminated pipeline
  • Scheduled a public pipeline replacement within the next few years

How much does it cost to replace the private part of your water service pipeline?

This varies based on the length of your lead-contaminated water service pipeline. But here's the catch. The government's rebate will not apply to the replacement or removal of things like:

  • Gardens
  • Landscaping
  • Decks
  • Porches
  • Interior work
  • Interior finishes

To be considered for a rebate from the Ottawa government, you have to provide a copy of your building permit or your home inspection.

Additionally, submitting an itemized invoice for the work that has been done on your property is key. In case you're wondering, you're responsible for replacing the pipeline that's actually located on your property line.

As for the pipe that connects your property to the city's water main, the Ottawa government will take care of that issue for you.

Using Lead Contamination Filter Kits

Another important part of the Ottawa government's lead replacement program is to provide lead contamination filter kits to applicable households. If you feel like your household has been invaded by lead, then the City of Ottawa will give you a free reusable water pitcher.

Plus, the government will throw in a one-year supply of certified filters to take out lead from your drinking supply while you're waiting for your pipes to be replaced.

How can you qualify?

All that you have to do is meet one of these requirements:

  • Prove that your home has lead contamination levels higher than five ppb OR
  • Participate in the loan option available under the Lead Pipe Replacement Program

Ottawa residents can dial 3-1-1 to receive a lead contamination test!

Applying For Lead Pipeline Replacement in Ottawa

Here's what you should know about applying for a lead pipeline replacement in Ottawa.

First, you have to check to see if your property qualifies for this government-sponsored program. As the homeowner, you have to start the application process in your own name.

Next, you must prove that the city's portion of your water service pipeline is filled with lead. Then, you have to agree to cover the costs of the water service pipeline that will be replaced on your property.

What about those who have already scheduled a lead pipeline replacement on their properties?

As long as your replacement date lands within the next several years, the government will stall their lead pipe replacement service to line up with your schedule.

Now, it's time to fill out an eligibility assessment form.

Note: Families who are pregnant or have children will be placed at the top of the list.

Once the City of Ottawa receives your application, prepare for a:

  • Site review
  • Home inspection
  • Property owner commitment

After your property has been approved, the City of Ottawa will have three payment plans, including:

  • Complete payment at the beginning of the project
  • A five-year financing option
  • A ten-year financing option

For those of you who choose to finance your work with the government, the bill will be included in your property tax fees. However, chances are that you won't know the exact interest rate until the project is finished.

Keep in mind - financing with the City of Ottawa can be slightly more expensive than a traditional bank loan!

Keep Water Service Pipes Lead-Free

Need a hand inspection, replacing, or keeping your water service pipes lead-free?

Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Ottawa is here to help! From home inspections to pipe repairs, we've got you covered. Our plumbing professionals have the knowledge and expertise of plumbing in Ottawa. We have advanced tools and training to replace your contaminated water-line and replace lead-based plumbing fixtures.

Once it's proven that you have lead in your pipeline, we will work with the City of Ottawa to get your drinking water back on track.

Want to get your service pipes installed, repaired, or inspected?

Contact us to request a job estimate or (613) 746-0000 call today!