Workers with the City of Brandon at the scene of a water main break on 22nd Street, south of Ottawa Avenue in Brandon a couple of years ago. That’s in an area built after 1950 — now known as the Green Zone — where poisonous lead services to home from the water main weren’t used.
Almost a year after it was revealed water in some Brandon homes contained high amounts of lead, no homeowners have taken the city up on its pipe replacement program.
This map, provided by the City of Brandon, shows areas where pre-1950 water connections exist, which may contaminate a home's drinking water with lead.
The City of Brandon says that about one in 10 homes who have been tested found results higher than the provincial standard. (GRAEME BRUCE/BRANDON SUN)
More than 570 city homes have had their water tested throughout the city — of those there were 59 that tested higher than the provincial standard (10 micrograms).
While the engineering department will approach council as early as next month to change the replacement program, right now the city is only responsible to pay for half of the pipe replacement from the property line to the water main and the homeowner is responsible for the rest, including the entire cost of putting in new pipes between the property line and the home.
If council agrees this year, the city will eat the cost of the water-main-to-property-line services.
"The policy, as far as I’m concerned, isn’t fair the way it is," said Patrick Pulak, the city’s deputy director of engineering. "Why would we ask the homeowner to cost-share what’s on our property?"
Pulak said so far, no one has asked the city to replace any pipes. When the city dug up the 300 block of Fifth Street last year — an ideal time to install new pipes — he said crews approached homeowners to see if they wanted new services.
"No one took it up," he said. "So the question is how many people would actually follow through on it if given the opportunity.
"We’ve had people enquire about it, but no one who followed through on it."
He said it could be that people are scared off by the costs, something the cost-sharing changes may address.
Brandon’s lead issue began last February after a provincial study found high levels of lead had been found in some pre-1950 homes — an issue many North American urban areas face.
The city still has its focus on getting rid of existing plastic water services, replacing them with copper pipes, Pulak said. He added the "long-term" goal is to get rid of all lead pipes in the city — for which the City of Brandon has budgeted $600,000.
When the news first broke, city officials suggested running water for 20 to 30 seconds each day to flush out the contaminant, but despite the directions, a recent report suggests water usage in 2013 was significantly lower than past years.
Meanwhile, the latest municipal budget includes $222,000 for additional maintenance to water services that are subject to freezing in an effort to drastically reduce the need to leave taps running in the winter to prevent frozen lines.
In the past two weeks alone, the city had to fix a number of water infrastructure issues including one water main on Clark Drive, sewer service repairs on Rideau Street as well as water service repairs on 20th Street, 13th Street, Rosser Avenue East and Seventh Street.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 27, 2014