Manitoba

Brandon mayor says communication about lead in water needs work

Brandon’s mayor says it’s communication strategy on how residents can reduce their lead exposure needs improvement and council members are committed to fixing the problem.

Says council is committed to resolving issue as soon as possible.

Samples of Brandon tap water tested by the Province, found high levels of lead. (CBC)

Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest says the city's communication strategy to residents about reducing lead exposure needs improvement.

A recent CBC News investigation found that, in addition to ongoing problems with higher than normal lead concentrations in some homes, many residents feel left in the dark in terms of the true extent of the health risks.

When asked whether the city is doing an adequate job communicating with citizens about the drinking water concerns, Mayor Chrest said "We are not."

"I would say that we have been working on this. Our new council is extremely interested in this issue," said Chrest.

He said prior to his term as mayor in 2013, the initial discovery of high lead concentrations by the province lead brought the issue to light.

Brandon mayor, Rick Chrest says the city's communication with residents over water issues has room for improvement. (CBC)

"It received a lot of attention at the time, but then you fail to realize, people are moving all the time. The person that may have lived in one house, and was fully aware of issues may have moved out and someone moved in more recently and may not have any idea," he said.

Brandon has to improve how it communicates the risks posed by lead to new homeowners, Chrest said.

"We know that as they're working through some new services and mitigation measures that the communication has to be enhanced," the mayor said.

When asked about the delays in implementing the use of orthophosphates to reduce the corrosion of older lead service lines, Chrest said the impact of using this additive must first be thoroughly studied first to understand how it could impact the water's chemistry.

"We view it as one of the highest responsibilities that we have and I know that our council won't have any hesitation in making sure we provide a commitment to getting this issue resolved as expeditiously as possible," he said.

In a written statement, the Manitoba government said "drinking water is generally not the most significant source of exposure to lead and the amount of lead in natural water sources in Manitoba is very low .... The most significant source of lead exposure for children is generally considered to be chipping, peeling and cracking paint in older homes."

Health Canada confirms it is in the process of updating guidelines for lead in drinking water based on new scientific evidence and priorities from stakeholders across the country.

Proposed updates to the guidelines will be made public later in 2016.