Thunder Bay·Audio

Change to Thunder Bay water system to increase lead levels for some residents

A change to Thunder Bay's water system will cause an increase in lead levels for some residents, but the city is offering a free, short-term solution to the problem.

The city is providing free pitchers with lead-removing filters

The City of Thunder Bay says about 8,700 homes and businesses in the city still have lead water service pipes, which can increase lead levels at the tap. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A change to Thunder Bay's water system will cause an increase in lead levels for some residents, but the city is offering a free, short-term solution to the problem.

Michelle Warywoda, director of the city's environment division, said the city will soon stop the addition of sodium hydroxide to the water.

The city began adding the chemical two years ago as a way to cut down on lead levels at the tap for the 8,700 Thunder Bay homes and businesses that still have lead water service pipes.

"We've had an increase in reports [of] pinhole leaks," Warywoda said. "At this time, we just felt that we should consider stopping the addition of the chemical and look at this further, and do some further study on it."

Warywoda said it's not certain if sodium hydroxide is the cause of the pinhole leaks.

"We don't typically get reports of pinhole leaks in pipes," she said. "That's not something that usually comes to our attention, and it has over the last few months."

"That's why we've decided ... let's make this change, let's go back to what the drinking water chemistry was two years ago."

In the meantime, the city has begun offering free water pitchers which include a filter that removes lead from the water.

"You're going to fill up the water pitcher, let the water drain through the filter, and store it in your fridge," she said. "You're going to use that water for drinking, of course, and ... if you're preparing any baby formula, and also cooking."

Water used for washing dishes or laundry doesn't need to be filtered, Warywoda said.

The pitchers will come with six additional filters, which each last about two months.

The city will be contacting affected people, and delivering the pitchers to them.

"This rollout ... is going to take some time" Warywoda said. "If you haven't received your filter right now, just be patient. They are coming."

The City of Thunder Bay is making some changes to the water system ... and that may cause lead levels at the tap to rise for some homes and businesses in the city. But a short-term solution is coming .Michelle Warywoda is director of the environment division with the City of Thunder Bay 5:28