British Columbia

Pemberton's water creating high lead levels, says village

The Village of Pemberton has issued a warning to residents that their tap water may have high levels of lead.

Municipal water contaminated by metal pipes in some homes

The Village of Pemberton has issued a notice to residents warning of high lead levels in the tap water of some homes. (Tim Graham)

The Village of Pemberton, B.C., has issued a warning to residents that their tap water may have high levels of lead.

The news comes after tests of the water from 20 homes found lead levels as high as six times the maximum acceptable concentration under Canadian guidelines.

But the lead is not coming from the municipal water supply, the village notes. It's coming from old pipes in some homes.

"Results revealed that the low pH of Pemberton's water is interacting with the plumbing fittings and fixtures of some houses to produce elevated levels of lead in drinking water," said the statement.

"This is particularly true in older facilities and homes that may have lead plumbing, fixtures or fittings, or used solder containing lead."

"We want to reassure the public that there is no lead contamination in the provision of drinking water to the citizens of Pemberton from our source. We test our water supply regularly at different locations and Vancouver Coastal Health has confirmed that the municipal water supply is safe to drink," said Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman.

Previous concerns raised

Concerns about the local water's corrosive effects on pipes are not new. As far back as 2007 concerns were raised by residents that pipes and water tanks were failing because of the acidic water supply.

Plumber Rob Szachury says he's been trying to get the village to do some thing about the problem for years.

"It has fallen on deaf ears for years. I don't know what else to do," he said. "I use a filter at my house. We don't drink anything but filtered water."

But he says despite doing water testing for years, he's never tested specifically for lead or heard about concerns about lead levels in the water supply.

David Mackenzie opened the Pemberton Lodge in 2004. He says within 18 months he was replacing the plumbing, and shortly after that water heater because of the corrosive water.

"I've operated a lot of buildings over the years and this is quite shocking because I've never had to replace any equipment like that... at such a rapid rate."

He says when he raised concerns with the village, he learned the problem was fairly common.

He said despite having a number of experts look at his problems, lead in the water has never been raised as a concern.

"I had no idea at the time that there could be lead contaminating the water supply,"

Now he's concerned the village is not doing enough to raise people's awareness of the issue.

"It's little frightening. I found out through a friend alerting it to me through a Facebook post... I don't think they have handled this properly. I've got a rather large hotel in the community and I have received no notice. It would have been nice to find a notice on my door, or a call from the village or even an email.

In the meantime, he's slowly been replacing the copper plumbing in his building with PEX.

Flush your water until it runs cold

The village is advising residents to flush their tap water until it turns cold prior to drinking it or using it for cooking.

"Water that has become stagnant from sitting in pipes for prolonged periods of time, such as overnight or during vacations, is most at risk of being contaminated.

"Once the lines have been flushed, water collected for drinking water, cooking, preparing baby formula and teeth brushing can be stored in a suitable container and kept refrigerated to assist with water conservation."

It also warns not to boil drinking water because that may increase the concentration of lead.

The village has issued guides for concerned residents.

As a long-term universal solution, the village will be installing a water conditioning system that will raise the pH of the water and eliminate the corrosivity of the water, thus reducing the potential for lead contamination, said the statement.

The news comes after high lead levels have been detected in some schools in B.C. and in the Legislature in Victoria.


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