The level of lead in the city’s drinking water was the topic of conversation at Tuesday evening’s regular council meeting.
“In the media there has been a number of stories related to water and lead in the water,” said Coun. Scott Nelson, referring to stories resulting from a yearlong investigation by more than 120 journalists from nine universities and 10 media organizations, including The Associated Press and the Institute for Investigative Journalism at Concordia University in Montreal, who collected test results that properly measure exposure to lead in 11 cities across Canada.
The investigation revealed out of 12,000 tests since 2014, one-third — 33 per cent — exceeded the national safety guideline of five parts per billion; 18 percent exceeded the U.S. limit of 15 ppb.
Canadian officials where levels were found to be high said they were aware that lead pipes can contaminate drinking water and that they were working to replace aging infrastructure.
“I’ve received a number of calls from people just in our community saying ‘we’ve got lead pipes in our community, what’s going on, what’s the concern,’” Nelson said, asking city staff to clarify what the situation is for Williams Lake.
“People are concerned and rightly so.”
CAO Milo MacDonald said he directed staff to examine the city’s water analysis for the past 10 years, directly taking a look at it in the context of the maximum allowable concentration of lead.
“Our lead levels are very, very low. We are one ten thousandth of the Canadian Water Drinking guidelines for lead, so on that issue we’re in good shape,” MacDonald reported.
Nelson was quick to confirm the findings for Williams Lake water.
“So our community is literally lead-free and very safe,” Nelson said.
MacDonald noted the city’s water has a high PH, and lead is more easily soluble in low PH water
“We are protected by the PH in our water which does not solubolize lead or other heavy metals,” he added.
Canada is one of the only developed countries in the world that does not have a nationwide drinking water standard. Even countries that struggle to provide safe drinking water have established acceptable lead levels: India’s is 10 ppb, Mexico and Egypt’s are 5 ppb, according to those country’s government websites.
In Prince Rupert journalists found excessively high lead levels in 21 of 25 homes tested. One woman, who lives in subsidized housing for Indigenous people, had water that registered at 15.6 ppb.
With files from The Canadian Press.