Saskatoon

Saskatoon says city working to replace lead water connections by 2026

A new study has shown some homes in Saskatoon have some of the highest measured levels of lead-tainted water in the country.

National report shows city's oldest neighbourhoods have high lead levels

 Approximately 2,400 homes in Saskatoon still need to have their pipes replaced due to lead. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

The City of Saskatoon says it has a plan to replace all of its lead water pipes in the face of a critical report.

A study released on Monday showed some homes in Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Regina had some of the highest measured levels of lead-tainted water in the country.

The investigation, led by Concordia University's Institute for Investigative Journalism, collected 2,600 tap water samples from the three cities. The tests found the water exceeded national safety guidelines.

"Any level of lead, obviously, is a potential concern, said Angela Gardiner, Saskatoon's general manager of utilities and environment.

"That is why we go ahead and recommend to our property owners who do have led connections to do what they can do to minimize the impact or the potential risks by flushing their water."

Saskatoon has been replacing its lead water pipes in older neighbourhoods since 2010 and accelerated the program in 2017. Since then, more than 2,500 homes in neighbourhoods built before the 1950s have had their pipes replaced.

"Our city is committed to removing all remaining underground pipes containing lead," said Gardiner. "We expect to have all connections replaced by 2026."

 Approximately 2,400 homes still need to have their pipes replaced.

This map shows which Saskatoon neighbourhoods had the most pipes that need to be replaced as of 2018. The darker the neighbourhood appears on the map, the more pipes there are to be replaced. (Supplied by the City of Saskatoon)

Under the city's program, 60 per cent of the replacement cost is covered by the city and the other 40 per cent is paid for by the homeowner with financing options available to the homeowner.

"If they are unable to or don't want to pay for it up front they have the opportunity of putting it on their annual tax bill, where it can be repaid over one, three or five years," Gardiner said.

Anyone with lead pipes is asked to run their water for five minutes before drinking it to reduce the amount of lead in the water. 

So far, the federal government is contributing up to $15.8 million, the province is putting in $7.9 million and the City of Saskatoon is contributing $7.9 million.

In Regina, the city government replaces about 150 connections per year, and is scheduled to be finished in 20 to 25 years.

The data was obtained through freedom of information requests by a consortium of universities and media companies, according to the Regina Leader-Post.

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