Thousands of Brandon homes may be getting city water contaminated with lead.
The city released the information at a hastily-organized press conference today, saying that the drinking water in up to 3,600 households may be contaminated with lead.
Health Canada says that long-term exposure to lead has been linked to poor intellectual development, kidney problems and hearing, among other things.
Although the city said that levels had been detected that were above national guidelines, they didn't release the actual amount of lead that was detected. The province, which conducted the water study in 2012 a part of a pilot project, said that amount varied depending on the household, but didn't immediately provide specific numbers.
That data will be in the Brandon Sun on Friday.
Water coming directly from the city treatment plant meets the provincial standards of 0.01 milligrams per litre, the city says, but the metal can leach into the water while passing through old lead pipes, or through joints that were soldered with lead.
Although the pipes in the home might be fine, lead may be present in the service lines that run from water mains in the street to the property.
Lead joins are most likely to be found in homes that were built before 1950, although some homes built since then have had their water service replaced. A map of pre-1950 construction has been provided by the city.
Homeowners who wish to determine if they have lead services from their property line running into their homes may first wish to check their water intake valve, which should be exposed at the point where their water service connects to their water meter. If the service line is greyish-silver in colour (as opposed to copper-coloured), it most likely is a lead service.
The problem was detected by the province, which tested tap water in Winnipeg, Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Steinbach last year. No information was immediately available on lead in the drinking water of those communities.
Starting next week, the city will be providing self-test kits for worried homeowners. They can be picked up from Engineering Deprtment at City Hall for $20 if the home is in a pre-1950 area, or $45 if they are not.
They also suggest installing a point-of-use filtration system, and avoiding drinking water that has been sitting in the pipes overnight or during the workday.
For homes that do turn out to have an elevated level of lead in the water, the city will offer a program to cover up to 50 per cent of the cost of water connection replacement, up to the property line. Between the home and the property line, the cost of replacement is entirely the homeowner's, the province says.