EPCOR needs money to lower the lead levels in Edmonton’s drinking water – a cost that may wind up on residents water bills.

Although officials from EPCOR and the city said the drinking water is safe, levels must be reduced to meet new federal regulations.

Earlier this month Health Canada cut acceptable lead levels in half, from 10 micrograms per litre to five.

“When it comes out of the treatment plants, there’s essentially no lead; when it flows throughout the municipal distribution system, the pipes in the streets, there’s no lead,” said Steve Craik, director of quality assurance and environment with EPCOR Water Canada.

“When it picks up lead is when it moves from there into the home.”

EPCOR says through random testing they found higher than acceptable levels all over the city. Homes built in the 60s or earlier are at a higher risk, as are homes that have a lead service line. 

“Ultimately we would like to remove those old service lines,” said Craik.

EPCOR would also like to add orthophosphate, which is a lead inhibitor during the treatment process. But building the facility to add the chemical and replacing pipes will cost tens of millions.

 “As a regulator I think you have to consider the overall benefit to the public and to the ratepayer,” said Ward 5 Councillor Sarah Hamilton.

The average water bill could go up as much as $0.40 each month until 2022, then up to $0.60 each month after that.

It’s an increase Hamilton believes council will approve.

With files from Jeremy Thompson…