City of Thunder Bay set to offer incentives to help residents remove lead water service pipes
Council approved $50k in this year's budget for the program, which could offer loans or grants
The City of Thunder Bay could be offering incentives to help home and business owners remove lead water service pipes from their properties later this year.
Councillors approved $50,000 for the incentive program in this year's municipal budget. And while city administration is still working out exactly how the program will work, the councillor who initially tabled the resolution that led to its creation said he's confident the incentives will be available in 2020.
"We do have about 8,700 properties that have lead services," Andrew Foulds said. "We are slowly removing the city's portion of those lead services. However, there is a portion of those services which are on property; the City of Thunder Bay has no jurisdiction on private property."
The idea, Foulds said, is to offer an incentive for the private property owners to remove their portion of lead service pipes when the city is doing so on city property.
The cost of removing a lead service pipe on private property depends on a number of factors, Foulds said, including the length of the pipe.
"I have been told that we think that the average is going to be about $3,000," he said.
Loans, grants possible
Other municipalities have put similar programs in place, Foulds said. For example, Guelph offers grants, while Ottawa offers loans.
"Those loan programs involve citizens taking out loans with their municipality, at a very low interest rate," Foulds said. "They can get it added on to their taxes."
"I would personally like to see a combination of grants and loans available to citizens."
The program is timely; the city has begun delivering free water pitchers with filters designed to remove lead to those with lead service pipes.
Two years ago, the city began adding sodium hydroxide to the water supply in an effort to cut down on lead levels at the tap. However, the city has been receiving reports of pinhole leaks in water pipes.
While it's not certain that the addition of sodium hydroxide is the cause of the leaks, the city is still halting the addition of the chemical while they investigate. That means lead levels at the tap for those properties with lead service pipes will rise.
Foulds said that despite the fact that most properties in the city don't have lead service pipes, removing them is still in the broader public interest.
"Not only will it help the current owners, but the next owners as well, and the next owners as well," Foulds said. "Ultimately, getting lead out of the ground is going to help citizens."
He said a report from administration about the program is due to be delivered to council in June, and he expects the incentives to be available this year.