Epcor to add lead-reducing chemical to Capital Region water in 2023, two years late

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Lead levels in drinking water regionally are expected to start dropping in early 2023 when orthophosphate is added to the Edmonton water treatment plant, two years later than originally promised.

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Epcor announced Thursday, August 11 that the odorless, colorless chemical will be added to regional water, which includes Strathcona County, by early 2023. The orthophosphate creates a protective barrier inside a hose to prevent lead from entering the water.

About 4,200 Edmonton homes are currently served by lead pipes owned by Epcor, the utility said. Adding this treatment by the end of 2020 has been promised as part of wider lead reduction plans approved by the city council in March 2019 around the time Health Canada reduced the allowable lead concentration in water from 10 micrograms per liter to five micrograms per litre.

Jeff Charrois, senior executive at Epcor, said in an interview that the pandemic played a role in the delay. Once added, Charrois said the chemical is a safe and effective way to reduce lead exposure.

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“Based on our studies, we conservatively estimated that orthophosphate would reduce lead by at least 80% in water. Because orthophosphate is used all over the world, we really believe this is a solution for us,” he said.

“Orthophosphate is a complete solution for all customers who receive water from Epcor, not just homes with lead service lines, because we know lead can come from anywhere.”

Asked if the delay was unfortunate since Edmontonians had been drinking lead-containing water for two more years, Charrois said Epcor notifies homeowners annually if they have high lead levels, provides filters and test options.

Ward papastew Earl. Michael Janz said “any type of delay is concerning” as Epcor has pursued other construction projects, and he plans to request more information at the next utility committee meeting.

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No Edmonton city councilor asked Epcor about the delay last March after officials said the chemical would be added by the end of 2022. The Alberta government granted Epcor permission to use orthophosphate in early 2020.

No plan to remove 4,200 Epcor lines with lead

Epcor estimates that about 1.4% of homes in Edmonton, mostly those built before 1960, have lead in the water pipes. In 2018, Epcor told Postmedia that about 30,000 homes would be affected by Health Canada’s new lead standards.

Some pipes containing lead belong to Epcor – the approximately 4,200 pipes running from water pipes to the edge of private property lines – while parts on private property, as well as faucets or other fixtures made with brass or lead solder, can also contaminate drinking water.

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Part of the utility’s 2019 lead reduction plan includes replacing 325 high-priority lines that may exceed the lead allowed by the new standards. In March, all 325s were to be replaced by the end of the year.

But Epcor has no immediate plans for its remaining 4,200 lead water pipes.

Charrois did not provide a timetable for the replacement. But he said they can be removed and replaced when other work is being done with nearby water lines.

“The removal of all lead service lines will be phased in over time, but we believe this is not a big deal as the orthophosphate will reduce the lead at the customer’s tap which will provide great protection,” he said. -he declares.

Neighborhood Métis County Ashley Salvador also asked about Epcor’s plans and low-priority line schedule at the March meeting. A company representative said Epcor “opportunistically” replaces lead service lines when a private owner replaces their part, or if other upgrades are made in the area.

To learn more about your water lines and lead testing, visit Epcor’s website or email [email protected]

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