Ponoka residents are wondering about lead in drinking water

AHS offers advice, town provides response

After a recent investigation by a group of Canadian journalists revealed high levels of lead in drinking water across the country, some Canadians are wondering about the safety of their drinking water.

READ MORE: Investigation: Lead in some Canadian water worse than Flint

Ponoka resident Sarah Olson is concerned with the safety of drinking water in Ponoka, particularly in the schools.

Although she questions whether testing the schools’ water supplies would be the town’s or the school division’s responsibility, as relating to where the town’s pipes end, and the school’s begin, she says figuring that out should be a “first priority response.”

Olson, who has a background in economic development, says that as the Town of Ponoka’s infrastructure is just as old as some of the larger centres with reported lead contamination in their water supplies.

Olson’s family was already water conscious and uses a Berkey filter in their home, both to remove chemicals, and for better enjoyment of their water. Berkey claims its filters remove up to 99.9 per cent of lead from drinking water.

A statement provided on Nov. 25 by Val Somerville, the executive assistant for the Town of Ponoka, says that the town has “just become aware of the regulatory changes and Alberta Environment and Parks’ Guidance Document for Managing Lead in Municipal Drinking Water Systems in Alberta.

“These documents are being reviewed to confirm our obligations and to determine what the course of action we will take in the coming year, along with the costs of creating and implementing the required plan. This issue will be brought forward to a Council meeting in the near future.

“In the interim, the Town of Ponoka notes that service lines are the responsibility of property owners, and encourages residents to obtain information regarding the risk of lead service lines and how to mitigate that risk.”

The City of Wetaskiwin recently announced a lead water service pipe replacement program, with the city committing to pay for 60 per cent of the cost.

The level of lead found in Wetaskiwin’s water, which was tested in August, 2019, was found to be 0.00018 mg/L, which is considered very low.

READ MORE: Drinking water safety a priority in Wetaskiwin

According to Alberta Health Services (AHS), lead in drinking water does not generally pose immediate or severe risks to health, but can pose chronic, long-term risks over time, and mainly affects children under six and pregnant women.

Guidelines have changed and Health Canada now recognizes the public health benefit of reducing lead exposure levels to as low as possible, says AHS.

Alberta follows the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guideline for lead of five micrograms per litre (0.005mg/L) or five parts per billion.

There have been no complaints or service requests related to lead from Ponoka or Central Alberta.

To limit your exposure to lead from tap water in your home, AHS recommends the following practices:

· Contact your water provider to determine if a lead service replacement program exists.

· Run or flush your water lines for one minute before using the water to drink or cook with when the water has been sitting in the pipes for longer than six hours. The water will feel cold to the touch when it has been flushed out.

· Use cold water (not hot) from the tap to drink and cook with. Boiling water does not remove lead.

· Private water system owners may sample their water for chemical sampling, which includes testing for lead.

For information on how to test your water, visit albertahealthservices.ca and search for “sample your water.”

AHS encourages anyone with questions or concerns to contact their health care provider, call HealthLink at 811 or contact AHS Environmental Public Health.

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