Water Sampling Program

Project Description

To address changes in federal and provincial drinking water regulations, the city is collecting water samples from 80 properties to test the lead concentration.

There is no reason to believe there is risk for exposure to lead in the drinking water in Medicine Hat. This is a province-wide testing program to ensure all communities meet the new maximum acceptable concentration of lead in our local water system.

In 2019, Health Canada reduced the maximum acceptable concentration for lead in drinking water from 0.010 milligrams per litre to 0.005 milligrams per litre (or 5 parts per billion) and changed the point of compliance to be at the customer's tap inside the property.

The city regularly tests for lead and results have consistently shown that lead concentration within the city's water distribution system is well below the limit established by provincial and federal legislation, averaging only 0.00063 milligrams per litre over the last 10 years.

Alberta Environment and Parks requires all waterworks systems registered under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (including Medicine Hat) to identify compliance or non-compliance with the new Health Canada guidelines and develop a required lead management program by December 31, 2024. Phase 1 of this requirement is to have the water sampling complete by September 30, 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is lead?

Lead is a substance that is naturally found in soil, food, and air. Lead has many industrial uses and has been used in plumbing and water service lines since the late 1880s. Lead can leach into drinking water from lead service lines and plumbing, but most humans are exposed from other sources.

What is a safe and acceptable level of lead?

In March 2019, Health Canada published a new lead limit for the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality which lowered the level to a maximum acceptable concentration of 5 micrograms per liter (0.005 mg/L) or 5 parts per billion.

Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality

Should I be concerned about lead in my water?

The City of Medicine Hat has closely monitored infrastructure for more than 40 years since lead pipes were banned under the national building code. Findings indicate no general problems with the water provided from the treatment plant of any underground piping system.

The City of Medicine Hat tests for lead in the distribution system in accordance with provincial requirements.

Lead testing is regulated and test results have consistently shown that the lead content within the city's water distribution system is well below the limit established by provincial legislation. As of 2019 the number of possible impacted residents at risk was significantly low to population (0.26%).

Does the City of Medicine Hat have Lead Water Mains?

The City of Medicine Hat does not have any lead mains and maintain accurate records of when all of city mains were installed and what their composition is.

Why does the City of Medicine Hat want to come into my home to take a water sample for lead?

With the changes made in March 2019, from Health Canada, the point of compliance for lead is at the customer's tap and no longer in the distribution system upstream from the service connection point or property line.

How will the sample be taken?

City Assets Field Operators will take the water sample from a cold water tap. Samples will be collected in a sample bottle without removing the aerator or screen or disinfecting the tap.

Who is eligible for the lead sampling program?

Locations have been pre-selected by City Assets based on current departmental records.

A building or residence that has a certified NSF/ANSI 53 filter that treats all of the water entering the premise will NOT be eligible for water sampling.

Why are only some residents being contacted for water samples due to lead?

Under the requirements from Alberta Environment and Park, the City of Medicine Hat is required to sample a total of 80 residences throughout the city.

Those targeted are areas believed to be where lead would most likely be present, homes or buildings constructed during or after the Second World War era. During this time copper was a premium material and lead was a common substitute.

How does the lead sampling program work?

A sample of water is taken from an internal tap by City staff and then sent to the lab to be analyzed.

Appointments are available during regular business hours Monday to Friday.

City of Medicine Hat employees will comply with all COVID-19 protocols and ensure they are following public health measures when entering the residence.

Individual results will be shared with each participant through mail.

Simple actions to reduce exposure to lead from drinking water:

Flush out your pipes before consuming the water.

  • Has water been sitting in your pipes for several hours? – Run the tap until its cold (about one minute) before drinking or cooking with the water from that tap.
  • Only use cold tap water for drinking or cooking, since hot water increases the leaching of lead and other metals from your plumbing.

Clean your taps monthly.

  • Every month, inspect the aerators or screens at the tap.
  • If you find debris, clean it out– this will remove any particles that may contain lead, and inspect more frequently.
  • If you do not find debris, continue to inspect monthly.

Replace brass fittings.

  • Brass faucets and valves can contain some lead. These can be replaced with fittings that are certified to the standard on low lead content.

A household water filter at the tap can effectively remove lead from your water.

  • Recommended as a temporary solution.
  • The filter must be installed and maintained properly or it could become ineffective.
  • Test your water for lead before installation and during use to confirm the filter is working.
  • Make sure that any device you purchase is certified to the NSF International standard for removal of lead.

Timing

Water samples will be collected between May 1 and September 30, 2021. Based on the results, a lead management plan must be developed and implemented by December 31, 2024.

Benefits

The water sampling program will provide reassurance that the city's water supply meets and exceeds the new federal and provincial drinking water regulations and remains safe to drink.

Notifications

Property owners will be notified by letter that their residence has been selected for water sampling. Staff will arrange an appointment for City Assets field staff to collect the water sample from their home between the dates of May 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021.

Test results will be shared privately with property owners by return letter in late 2021.

The public will continue to receive updates on the project on this page, by public advisory and on the city's social media channels.