High drinking water lead levels at several Delta facilities

Several Delta civic facilities are above Health Canada’s new limits for lead levels in drinking water.

That’s according to a memo by the engineering and parks and recreation departments made public today.

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“Staff have implemented a procedure of running water for a minimum of two minutes each morning at the locations where tests showed lead levels above Health Canada guidelines. Additional tests are being performed in light of the new Health Canada regulations and to determine whether lead levels in water at Delta facilities have changed since 2016. These tests will include City Hall, recreation centres, fire halls, police detachments, municipal libraries, animal shelter, seniors’ centres, and any other Delta operated municipal facilities,” the memo explains.

With new Health Canada guidelines, three locations - Ladner Outdoor Pool, South Delta Recreation Centre and Tsawwassen Arts Centre - are now deemed to be above the limits for lead in the water.

The memo also notes that three years ago the city undertook water testing for lead at 15 parks, recreation and culture facilities and the results showed three locations - Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast B.C. at the Winskill Annex, the North Delta Recreation Centre arena and Sungod Recreation Centre arena - had lead levels in the standing water supply above Health Canada guidelines at the time.

 

The memo was written in response to recent media reports about unacceptable lead levels in drinking water in Vancouver.

As part of an investigation by a national consortium of universities and media companies, reporters from the University of B.C. collected drinking water samples from Vancouver homes late last year and earlier this year, finding lead levels exceed federal guidelines in several homes.

As far as Delta, which conducts weekly water tests at 34 sampling sites and reports water quality tests to council annually, the city has no record of lead pipes in its distribution system which mostly consists of polyvinyl, followed by cast iron, asbestos cement, ductile iron with some steel, high density polyethylene and one per cent listed as “unknown.”

Delta has approximately 32,400 service connections with about 80 per cent of these connections copper.

The memo also notes Delta has taken several measures to replace aging service lines.

As per bylaw requirements, service lines 25 years or older must be replaced during large renovation projects and construction of new homes.

In addition, Delta replaces approximately four kilometres of aging watermains annually.

delta water

The pump station at the Pebble Hill Reservoir

 

The city also uses lead-free fittings that conform to the latest national standards.

However, the memo warns buildings on private property may still be subject to lead leaching from internal plumbing and private service connections.

The risk is highest for older buildings without upgraded plumbing systems.

“In these circumstances, building occupants may want to reduce potential risk by flushing any stagnant water in the system by letting the water run for a few minutes each morning,” the memo explains.

“This approach was used by the City and Delta School District when lead content above maximum allowable concentrations were found in several schools in early 2016 and at three Delta facilities that were found to have elevated lead levels according to the 2016 tests. This procedure effectively flushes the lead from the water, returning lead levels to below Health Canada guidelines.”

 

The school district issued an advisory to parents that year that noted tests revealed a majority of schools examined showed lead above the maximum acceptable level in "pre-flush" pipe water.

The district noted there were no lead pipes in any of the schools' water systems, so the source of the problem was likely external pipe soldering done years ago.

A Metro Vancouver official recently told the Optimist, “Lead levels in Metro Vancouver’s source water and transmission system are below detection limits. Our source water from the protected watersheds is naturally lead-free and there are no lead-containing regional supply lines. Lead may be found in premise plumbing of buildings. Older premise pipes and fixtures, such as taps or drinking fountains, may contain lead, either in solder or as part of metal components. If water is acidic (below neutral 7.0 pH) there is increased risk of metal corrosion. Metro Vancouver takes steps to adjust the pH of the water to reduce this risk.”

 

The city’s annual drinking water quality report for 2018, meanwhile, notes that, as with all surface water sources, the water quality can be inconsistent. 

“Following significant rain events, turbidity levels can be higher than normal and, as a result, the treatment process can be inconsistent.  For several years Delta has been benefiting from improved water quality from the Seymour-Capilano Filtration Plant, as can be observed from previous troublesome areas in Delta’s system that are showing lower turbidity and HPC values, and higher, more stable, chlorine residuals. Furthermore, maintenance and monitoring programs are designed to meet the challenges of distributing this water in a way that does not compromise the health of our residents.”

Last year, approximately 1,360 water samples were collected in order to confirm a safe drinking water supply.

Delta’s water system, which civic officials stress is safe, services an area of approximately 18,100 hectares including North Delta, Tsawwassen, Ladner, Tilbury, Annacis Island, Delta Port, Boundary Bay Airport and the B.C. Ferry Terminal.

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