Regina city council has voted to move from annual to biennial progress reports for its Lead Service Connection (LSC) Management Program and report all future data from the program through the City’s open data website.
The public report on the open data site will include the number of lead connections replaced, the number of filters given out, and the results of new testing for service connections containing lead, or lead in the household plumbing systems, such as lead solder or brass plumbing fixtures.
While annual reports on the program have been required since 2018, some councillors questioned the practical elements of staff reporting annually on a program that effectively hasn’t changed.
“I think it needlessly takes the time of council to repeatedly bring it forward when it’s the same form each year,” suggested Councillor Bob Hawkins during council’s debate.
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A new progress report prepared by the public works and infrastructure department for Regina’s executive committee shows that there are approximately 3,000 City-owned LSCs remaining. Regina’s plan is to replace all LSCs by 2036 at a cost of about $36 million. That is a target of about 220 replacements per year.
The local Get The Lead Out committee appeared before council to convey what it called a lack of urgency around the City’s LSC replacement timeline. Committee representative Patricia Elliott also called for the progress reports to remain annual to preserve open public discussion, feedback, and transparency.
“They continue to delude themselves that this is an effective way to manage a highly-toxic substance in the drinking water,” Elliott told reporters outside the council meeting.
Mayor Sandra Masters noted that the LSC replacements are designed to occur in coordination with planned road upgrades to prevent duplicate excavation, asphalt and concrete work that would have generated additional greenhouse gas emissions.
“We replace the roads at the same time and in some instances sidewalks as well,” said Masters. “So the expense of multiple different departments, multiple different budgets is significant.”
Elliott also told council that water filters were not a workable solution, pointing to low uptake from the public, despite Regina’s 43% increase in distributing the filters last year for a total of 432. As of July, Regina handed out more than 200 filters so far this year. Residents can request a free tap-mounted filter unit or filtered water pitcher and have it delivered to their door. As an alternative, residents can also choose a rebate of up to $100 on their utility bill.
City administration noted that awareness and outreach efforts expanded in 2022. Through door-knocking and attending events such as festivals, staff reported 812 interactions for its LSC replacement outreach.
Regina has given an extra push to the lead service connection replacement program since Health Canada reduced the maximum acceptable concentration of lead in drinking water from 0.010 mg/L to 0.005 mg/L in 2019.