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Water tests show safe lead levels: Town

Masha Scheele

Following the recently released report on high volumes of lead being found in Canada’s water, Hinton’s staff reassured its citizens that water from Hinton’s water treatment facility is well below the national safety guideline.

Hinton’s water is tested twice each year, and levels were last tested below .001 mg/L said Emdad Haque, director of infrastructure services for the Town. Haque stated in the standing committee meeting on Nov. 12 that the national average safety guideline for lead found in water is .005 mg/L.

Mayor Marcel Michaels inquired about citizens’ concerns of contamination between the treatment plant and the distribution system and how people in Hinton can be sure about what is in their water. Haque said the Town doesn’t have a record of any lead pipes being used in their infrastructure, thus no contamination is possible within the system.

“We confirmed that in our system there is no lead anywhere,” stated Haque though he couldn’t be sure about infrastructure within local trailer parks.

“We donʼt know details of what kind of infrastructure they have on private land. In the past if any contractor used any lead or anything within their distribution network then there might be a chance of having lead in their water. Other than that, in our distribution centre, no lead.”

Lead contamination can be found in a person’s home due to the use of lead pipes or infrastructure, but Haque was clear that Hinton never used lead in their water system. 

He added that individuals can bring their water samples to the Town to be tested for any substance.

“Every year we are mandated for two lead tests [in the town’s system]. Anything below .0001 mg/L, the lab cannot trace them, in our case we have always been less than .001,” said Haque.

Water in Hinton is extracted from the Athabasca River into its water treatment facility. From there it goes through a distribution system to residential and non-residential customers. Haque said that lead could only come from the raw water collected from the river, but the two tests per year assure him that any detection of lead is at a safe level.

The issue of lead in water came to light recently after 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.

This group collected test results measuring the exposure to lead in 11 cities across Canada and found that one third out of 12,000 tests since 2014 exceeded the national safety guideline of 5 parts per billion, while 18 per cent exceeded the U.S. limit of 15 ppb. The Canadian government website states that lead is a naturally occurring metal found in rock and soil, but that levels of lead in most environmental media have declined significantly over the past few decades.

A graph from the Canadian government show that the average dietary intake of lead by Canadians of all ages has decreased approximately eight-fold between 1981 and 2000, and have since remained stable at about 0.1 microgram per kilogram of body weight per day.

Health Canada’s consultation report from Jan. 11, 2017 stated that a maximum acceptable concentration of 0.005 mg/L is proposed for total lead in drinking water, based on a sample of water taken at the tap and using the appropriate protocol for the type of building being sampled. 

The report urged that every effort should be made to maintain lead levels in drinking water as low as reasonably achievable.