High lead levels have been found in the tap water of some older Brandon homes.
Preliminary results of a provincial study show lead contamination in excess of the current national drinking water guidelines. In one case, the lead concentration was nearly five times the Canadian standard.
City officials called a press conference Thursday, where they announced that the water in approximately 3,600 homes may be affected.
These are homes built before 1950 and are most likely to have a lead service connection.
"We’re talking about the services that run from the water main on the street, to a person’s house, connected to your water meter," said Patrick Pulak, the city’s deputy director of engineering.
"It’s an issue that’s been experienced by many cities across Canada, as lead pipes or lead services were acceptable construction standards prior to the 1950s."
The provincial pilot project study was undertaken in 2012. It looked at the lead levels in tap water in select homes and buildings in Brandon, Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie and Steinbach.
So far, 11 out of 20 homes have been tested in Brandon. The provincial standard for lead concentration in drinking water is 10 micrograms per litre. The homes tested ranged from 0.5 to 49.5 micrograms per litre.
Results of the study will soon be finalized and homeowners involved are expected to receive their results over the next few days.
City manager Scott Hildebrand said after receiving the preliminary results, they believed being "proactive" was the best way to go.
"We felt … providing our residents with proper information and resources to help was the right thing to do," Hildebrand said.
Pulak stressed that the lead concerns do not relate to the city’s water treatment facility or the distribution system.
"Our distribution system … still meets the federal guidelines for lead concentrations of drinking water," Pulak said.
The city is partnering with ALS Environmental Labs of Winnipeg to provide tap water testing services for homeowners concerned about lead levels.
As of next week, homeowners can pick up a self-testing kit from the city’s engineering department on the second floor of city hall.
The kit and testing will cost $45. However, if the individual lives in the identified areas where pre-1950 lead connections may exist, the cost will be $20.
"The city will pick up the other $25 cost, we will transport the samples to Winnipeg, have the results come back to us and we will then get it to the residents," Pulak said.
For people who live outside of the identified area, and still would like to test their water, the cost will be the full $45.
In the meantime, if residents are worried about elevated levels of lead in their water, Pulak recommends flushing water for a few minutes.
"To get any of the water that may have been sitting in the service line to the house," he said.
Another recommendation is for homeowners to purchase a tap filter that has a lead reduction certified filter.
The permanent solution is to replace the lead water service. The city estimates that to assume all the costs from replacing the water service from the water main to the property line for 3,600 homes, the cost would be $27 million. If 80 homes were completed per year, it would take roughly 45 years to finish.
For a faster turnaround, the city offers a program in which it provides financial assistance to property owners. The city will pay for 50 per cent of the cost to replace the lead water service connection from the water main to the property line. Replacing the lead service from the property line into the home will be the homeowner’s cost.
"If the homeowner … were to replace their water service from the property line to their home, it would be … in the range of $6,000 to $8,000," Pulak said.