Water produced at the City’s drinking water treatment plants does not contain lead. Lead can be found in:
As these items corrode and breakdown, lead can enter drinking water.
Apartment and other buildings with more than six units do not have lead pipes, regardless of age. Lead is too soft to handle the pressure needed for these types of buildings.
Lead can affect how the brain and nervous system grows. According to Toronto Public Health, those most at risk include:
Toronto Public Health strongly recommends replacing your side of the lead service pipe at the same time that the City is replacing its side. Cutting the pipe to replace just one portion can cause particles of lead to enter drinking water, which can lead to a temporary spike in lead levels.
The water service pipe delivers water into a building. This pipe is divided into two parts.
1. The part that the City owns runs from the watermain on the street up to the property line.
2. The part from the property line into the home is private property and the responsibility of the homeowner.
Lead pipes affect residential homes. There are approximately 437,000 residential customers in the City of Toronto. Of these, it is estimated that approximately 23,500 contain City-owned lead water service pipes.
1. Find out if you live in a house built before the mid-1950s. If so, it likely has a lead water service pipe. If you own your house, check the purchase papers. If you rent, ask the owner.
2. If possible, look at the pipe that goes into your water meter. If it is grey, scratches easily and does not sound hollow when you tap it, it may be lead.
A licensed plumber is the best way to determine if your water service pipe is lead. They will likely need to enter your basement to make a visual inspection of the pipe.
The City also offers free lead testing to help determine if you have lead in your water.
Toronto Public Health recommends those with lead pipes take the following actions:
It is recommended that you replace both the City-owned portion of the pipe, as well as the portion on your private property. Cutting the pipe to replace just one side can cause particles of lead to enter drinking water, which can cause a temporary spike in lead levels. Residents who commit to replacing their side of the pipe can apply to have the City replace its side through the Priority Lead Water Service Replacement Program.
If it has been a few hours since you have used water, run a tap until the water is very cold, and then let it run for at least one more minute. This will pull fresh water from the watermain into the pipes.
Lead in pipes moves more readily into hot water than into cold water. Cold water is less likely to contain lead, even after flushing the pipes.
Look for filters certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) for lead removal and reduction.
You can install an end-of-tap filter on the tap you use most often for cooking or for water to drink. The City offers a faucet filter rebate to eligible homeowners.
You can also use a pitcher-style filter.
If you have a baby at home and are breastfeeding, continue to breastfeed your baby. The amount of lead in breast milk is much lower than in tap water. If you are feeding your baby formula use cold filtered tap water, boil it and then let it cool. Use within 30 minutes. Until you have a filter, consider using bottled water for making baby formula, or ready-to-feed formula.
In 2011, Toronto City Council approved the Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Strategy, a multi-pronged approach aimed at protecting public health by reducing lead in drinking water. Components of the strategy include:
Homeowners in Toronto can submit a drinking water sample to be tested for lead levels free of charge at one of Toronto Water’s accredited labs. Find out how to get a lead testing kit and how it works.
The City of Toronto has enhanced its drinking water treatment process to add phosphate, which forms a protective coating inside all pipes. Learn more about the City’s Corrosion Control Plan.
Each year, the City aims to replace 5,000 substandard water services pipes through the programs listed below. Many of these pipes will be lead.
The City provides a free faucet filter for lead removal to homeowners whenever the City-owned portion of a lead water service is replaced. Toronto Public Health also distributes free filters to participants of the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program.
Residents that have lead pipes can apply for a rebate to help purchase an NSF-053 certified filter for lead removal and/or replacement cartridges if they meet all of the following criteria: