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City responds to lead in water supply

The City of Powell River wants to ease any concerns about local drinking water.

It’s reacting to nationwide reports about elevated levels of lead found in municipal water system.

Director of Infrastructure, Tor Birtig, said traces of lead can be found in the municipal water supply, but it’s within safe levels,

“From the source through the Haslam Lake reservoir and the distribution system. I wouldn’t say we have no lead, but in our testing, we’ve never registered elevated levels of lead within our distribution system.”

Birtig continued, “As opposed to many eastern Canadian cities, lead service lines were not utilized in Powell River, so I don’t feel that we have an issue here. If people are concerned, they should take precautions. Run the water for a couple of minutes before you drink or cook with it, or look at using a filter.”

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He added that property owners can also have their water tested by a professional.

The responsibility for household and commercial water is the owners, from the service shutoff valve at their property line to their home or business.

The City’s water service lines are predominantly copper or plastic.

The use of lead solder on water lines was permitted until 1986.

“From 1986 we stopped the use of lead in solder,” said Birtig, “however, like most coastal
communities, we have a water supply that is corrosive in nature, so in houses that were built prior to ’86 there could be elevated lead levels if water sits in the pipes overnight. Studies have shown that by flushing the water until it turns cold is effective in dramatically reducing lead levels”

The Ministry of Health tests Powell River’s water annually and, although it’s not a high priority, according to Birtig, the ministry has encouraged the City to look at treating the water supply by filtering it through a limestone bath to reduce the corrosiveness.

“We’re going to continue to investigate systems that deal with corrosive water without impacting our high quality of our water,” said Birtig. “In 2012, we completed the federal and provincially funded $8.5 million in upgrades to the drinking water system with the new ultraviolet treatment facility and reservoir.”

At the opening of the facility, the drinking water officer for VCH said the City could say it supplies drinking water that’s treated to the highest international standard, with clear and good tasting water without any colour issue.

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