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New chemical in Edmonton water to help prevent lead buildup


A new colourless, odourless chemical that is designed to act as a barrier to keep lead out of Edmonton's drinking water is now running through the city's taps.

As of last week, Epcor began adding orthophosphate to the water distribution network to prevent harmful lead from being dissolved off of pipes and moving into the tap water Edmontonians consume.

Jeff Charrois, analytical operations senior manager, told CTV News Edmonton that most people will be unable to notice a difference as the compound is tasteless.

"They don't have to do anything with their water," Charrois explained. "It's just sort of going to be there now in the background."

Epcor began planning to add orthophosphate to the city's water several years ago after Health Canada decreased the standards for approved levels of lead in drinking water from 10 micrograms per litre to five.

"When water leaves the treatment plant here at Epcor, there is no measurable lead," Charrois said. "It's picked up along the journey from the treatment plant into people's homes. And typically you would find lead in homes that might have lead service lines."

Charrois says there are still around 2,100 Epcor-owned service lines that still have pipes with lead — or roughly one and a half per cent of all lines. The utility provider does not know how many private plumbing systems contain soldering or fixtures with the harmful metal.

"[Orthophosphate] is going to be effective for the unknown, unknowns," Charrois said. "The areas that we may not have any testing in but where lead might actually be existing."

Epcor's Jeff Charrois speaks with CTV News Edmonton (CTV News Edmonton/Amanda Anderson).

Epcor closely monitors homes connected to the service lines containing lead, Charrois says. In 2019, approximately 325 tested over 25 micrograms per litre.

"So in those high-priority homes, we targeted those for lead service line removal and we've gotten basically to the bottom of that list this year," he said.

To find out more or for tips on identifying the type of pipes your home has, visit Epcor's website. Top Stories

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