Lead in Tap Water 

Learn more about new lead reduction incentives

Your Health and Lead Exposure:

Lead is a heavy metal used in a wide variety of products such as plumbing, electronics, gasoline, paint, glass and many other applications. Because of the serious health risks associated with lead, its use in developed countries is in a steady decline. The main pathways to human exposure are contaminated food, water, soil and air. Exposure to lead over time can affect your health, with the greatest risk being to children under the age of 6 and during pregnancy. According to the Center for Disease Control Advisory Committee on Childhood, there are no safe levels of lead in blood, therefore it is highly recommended to reduce or eliminate all lead sources including pipes in contact with drinking water. Studies have demonstrated that lead can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body. The most common outcome of exposure to elevated levels of lead is cognitive impairment as the central nervous system becomes affected. Studies have shown a link between elevated lead exposure and lower IQ scores for children up to the age of 6.

How does lead gets into tap water?

For the most part, the amount of lead naturally occurring in water sources in Canada such as spring water, groundwater and surface water including the Grand River is extremely low; however lead can dissolve into drinking water primarily from exposure to lead service pipes and to a lesser extent from lead solder in plumbing and from fixtures. This leaching process is affected by a number of corrosion related factors, including the age of the plumbing system, the chemistry of the water, and the length of time the water sits in the pipes. For example, tap water left stagnant overnight in lead pipes may have higher than normal levels of lead when the tap is first turned on in the morning. To obtain more information on lead sources other than lead water service pipes, please contact your healthcare provider.

Provincial Regulations

Under Ontario Regulation 169/03 - Ontario Drinking Water Standards, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has set a Maximum Acceptable Concentration (MAC) value for lead in drinking water at 10 ppb (= 10 parts per billion). If the lead levels are below 10 ppb, tap water is considered safe; above this level, tap water is considered unsafe.

In an effort to reduce children exposure to lead, the Ministry of the Environment promulgated Ontario Regulation 243/07. Under this regulation  schools, private schools and day nurseries have to comply with flushing and testing requirements. For more information on these regulatory requirements, please visit: http://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view.do?postingId=1001.     

What’s the risk to me?

Not all properties have lead pipes. The first thing to do is find out the age of your property. If it was built before 1955, there’s a good chance the pipe that connects your property to the watermain on the street is made of lead. This map delineates in red the downtown area where most lead water services are located in the City.

If you are unsure whether your water service is made of lead, here are some extra tips:

Contact Us

Contact the City’s Compliance Division at (519) 759-4150 ext. 5834 or via email: waterquality@brantford.ca. The City’s database will usually have data on the composition of your water service.

The Scratch Test

Scratch test

The scratch test – Visually inspect the pipe below the water meter. Lead is a very soft metal, scratching the surface with a coin is easy and will leave a shiny metallic grey mark.

Lead Pipe

Lead Pipe dull grey colorLead pipe is usually a dull grey color and can flex and bend into irregular shapes with larger diameters especially at termination points.

Galvanized Pipes

Galvanized PipeAs opposed to galvanized pipes, lead does not attract magnets.

Tapping Test

Tap Tap Tap – tapping a lead pipe with a coin will produce a dull noise rather than the metallic ringing of a copper pipe.

Copper Pipe

Copper PipeA copper pipe below the water meter doesn’t necessarily mean that the underground water service is made of copper. Look for a discoloration of the concrete floor for signs that the copper pipe might be changing to lead below the foundation.

Steps To Reduce Lead In Tap Water

Steps you can take to reduce your exposure to lead in tap water, if you have or are suspected to have a lead water service:

  1. First run your water to flush out lead if the faucets have not been used for several hours. Run your water to clear the distance between your property and the road (at least 5 minutes for a private residential property). In the morning, using your shower or toilet will flush out "stale" water.
  2. Use cold water only for cooking and preparing baby foods. Do not use the hot water tap to either cook, drink or prepare baby foods. Lead and other harmful heavy metals originating from your hot water tank dissolve more quickly in warm water.
  3. Do not boil water to remove lead. In fact, the boiling process will concentrate lead levels due to water evaporation.
  4. Look for alternative sources or treatment of water. If there are children under the age of 6 or a mother is expecting a baby, consider purchasing bottled water or a water filter. Read the package to be sure the filter is approved to reduce lead or contact NSF International at 1-800-NSF-8010 or www.nsf.org for more information. Be sure to maintain and replace filters in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to protect water quality.
  5. Identify and replace plumbing fixtures containing lead. Replace old faucets and fixtures with ones that are labelled “lead-free”.
  6. Replace your lead water service line! In Brantford, the major source of lead in your drinking water comes from a lead water service. The City encourages property owners to take advantage of the Lead Water Service Replacement Grant Program.

What is the City doing about it?

  • Residential Water Service SchematicPublic Works staff has worked diligently to eliminate all known lead pipes on the public portion of the water services. It is the responsibility of the property owner to replace the portion of the water service on the private side.
  • Between 2008 and 2015, the City’s on-going Lead Service Replacement Program has offered over 600 grants to eligible property owners to remove their old lead water services.
  • The City offers inspection of water services and lead water tests, free of charge.
  • The City and the Brant County Health Unit has undertaken a joint education and outreach program to warn the community of the negative health effects of lead.

What are the other benefits of replacing a lead service?

  • Reduce the risk of water service failure that may cause substantial property damage;
  • An improvement in water pressure;
  • Potentially increase the resale value of the property.

Contact information:

For free lead water service inspections, lead testing, or any other water quality inquiries please contact the City of Brantford, Compliance Department at 519-759-4150 Ext. 5834 or via email: waterquality@brantford.ca

For more information about the Lead Service Replacement Grant Financial Assistance Program, please call the the Public Works Commission at: 519-759-4150 Ext. 5400 or via email: pwadmin@brantford.ca

Additional Information on contractors authorized to replace lead water services in Brantford is available on the City’s website: www.brantford.ca/plumbingtrades. Please refer to the “Sewer Drain” or “Plumbing” Contractor’s lists.

Click here for information on the grant program for replacement of lead water services.