PRINCE RUPERT, BC - The City would like to proactively address the media attention that Prince Rupert has received regarding lead leaching into water from home plumbing. The City of Prince Rupert and Northern Health are aware of the issue of lead and copper leaching from home plumbing, which is why we sent out a joint flushing notice to residents last year and have recently done further outreach following our own testing program that collected data from 65 households.
Unlike some other communities mentioned, Prince Rupert does not have lead service lines, which can be a contributing factor to lead content in drinking water. The water provided to homes in Prince Rupert does not have lead in the source water but instead it leaches from home plumbing when it sits overnight.
As a precautionary measure, if you do not know for certain that your plumbing does not contain lead you should run a tap in your home or business for one or two minutes or until it runs cold any time that water is left to sit in your pipes. Flushing your home water system in this way will help to ensure you are receiving a fresh source of water from beyond the home. We are currently in the process of secondary testing, but early results indicate that flushing is an effective way of significantly reducing lead levels.
It should be noted that the samples used in the reporting were taken in the morning on the ‘first flush’ from the tap, after the water was left to sit overnight, and are ‘worst case’ results. These levels are not representative of the water being drawn through the tap throughout the day once stagnant water has cleared. Provincial Health Guidelines state clearly that “first flush” data is not representative of the level of lead exposure throughout the day. Instead, the Maximum Acceptable Concentration (which was recently lowered to a level of 0.05 mg/L) is supposed to be based on an average of samples collected throughout the day.
It is also important to note that regular samples collected from testing stations within Prince Rupert’s community water system show lead results well below Federal and Provincial standards (with the average test collected in recent years showing 0.00038 mg/L, and the newly lowered Maximum Allowable Concentration being 0.05 mg/L). These results are publically available through the Northern Health website and are posted regularly at https://www.healthspace.ca/Clients/NHA/NHA_Website.nsf. In addition, the City does not have lead service lines within municipal infrastructure, and have not encountered lead service lines on private property. Recent test results support the absence of municipal lead service lines, as residences with elevated levels were broadly dispersed within the community, and not in one or two ‘problem’ areas that could be tied to underground infrastructure.
All that being said, when our own test results were received, the higher proportion of homes with noted issues highlighted the need for additional public messaging, and in August another notice was posted, and a video made available on the City’s social media platforms and Youtube channel.
Due to the prevalence of lead in home plumbing solder prior to 1989 (and lead content in fixtures further reduced in 2012), combined with the age of Prince Rupert’s housing stock, it is possible that many homes throughout the community may have some level of exposure to lead through home plumbing.
For our part, the City is working diligently to improve water quality, including on future measures to mitigate potential lead leaching. We have been working since 2014 to obtain funding to replace critical water supply infrastructure, including our 100 year old dam, water conveyance line and access road, and more recently to develop a water treatment facility. In August, we were notified that we were successful in achieving funding for the final phase of the water project, which includes replacement of the submarine line carrying water beneath the harbour, and development of a state of the art water treatment facility. The treatment system as proposed would include multiple barriers of treatment, which will help to address the coastal issue of low pH and subsequent lead leaching in private plumbing infrastructure.
Still, there remains a possibility of lead leaching into a home’s tap water unless lead plumbing components are replaced entirely, or flushing is conducted. We encourage people where possible to consider replacing all plumbing components containing lead, or to continue to conduct regular flushing until such time as replacement is feasible. Alternatively, you can pick up a lead filtration system from the local hardware store. Filters should state that they are certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 or 58 for lead reduction.
Veronika Stewart, Communications Manager
City of Prince Rupert
(250) 627 0976