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The City of Ottawa announced a rebate program to help home owners replace non-city-owned lead pipes. Photo credit: Adobe Stock, hstiver.

City of Ottawa homeowners with lead water pipes that connect to non-lead city pipes are now eligible for a rebate of up to $1,000, about 20% of the total replacement cost, municipal officials have announced. 

Due to increasing concerns over health impacts from lead, in March 2019 Health Canada published a more stringent guideline of 5 parts per billion (ppb) for lead in drinking water compared to the previous guideline of 10 ppb. 

Ottawa homeowners applying (and waiting) under the lead pipes replacement program could get a year’s worth of free water filters to remove lead from their tap water. 

Homeowners might have lead water pipes if the home was built in Ottawa before 1955. City officials estimate that lead affects about 15% of homes, or some 30,000 residences. 

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The city remains responsible for replacing pipes up to the private property line. 

According to a City report, Ottawa conducted a four-year pilot of research experiments to determine a new treatment strategy to meet the new lead standard. Based on the study, a low-dose phosphate strategy has been selected for both of Ottawa’s water treatment plants. Phosphate has been widely used in North America for corrosion control and is considered a best practice for drinking water supplies in older cities with lead service pipes. 

“The City will add a trace amount of phosphate during treatment to improve corrosion control for watermains and household plumbing, minimizing exposure to lead in tap water caused by lead pipes,” the City of Ottawa stated in a September public announcement. “This new treatment is being implemented proactively in anticipation of the province adopting the new lead standard.” 

Design costs for the new water treatment process of adding phosphate are estimated to be upwards of $1 million. Construction costs, including chemical storage tanks, pumps, piping and related control equipment, are estimated to be $5.5 million. 

Although Ottawa’s tap water is lead free, small amounts of lead can dissolve during transport through lead service pipes and/or household plumbing and tap fixtures. 

The consequences of lead poisoning range from kidney damage to reproductive problems, including fertility issues. Lead poses a particular risk to young children. 

The City of Ottawa has $1 million set aside to replace its portion of the lead pipes.

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