City mulls initiatives for lead connector replacement program

By Tyler Marr
January 13, 2018 - 9:31am

The City of Prince Albert is looking to find ways to better achieve the replacement of hundreds of lead service connectors used in its water distribution system.

In a report Monday, city council was updated on the city’s lead water pipe replacement program and potential options to encourage private owners to replace lead connectors on their property.

There are an estimated 750 lead connectors still running under city streets that are owned by the city. It is unknown the number of private lead connectors as century-old records are incomplete or were not properly updated. 

The city is only responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the water system up to property lines.

The average cost to replace a connector runs a tab between $12,000 and $20,00, according to agenda documents. Replacing all connectors would nix $12 million from city coffers. While the city replaces anywhere from 10 to 40 connectors annually, there is no current requirement or funding for the replacement of the privately owned portions of lead connectors.

This is of concern, as studies have shown that partial replacement of lead services can increase total corrosion that occurs in remaining lead services, according to engineering services manager Jeff Da Silva.

Lead in drinking water can occur from natural sources, service connections to homes, internal household plumbing and plumbing fixtures. Da Silva said the river, water treatment plant and public distribution mains are not sources of lead. 

Health Canada says the maximum acceptable concentration of lead in water is 0.010 mg/L.

Wanting to address this lingering problem, the city has turned an eye to practices in the City of Saskatoon. In 2017, they launched a mandatory Lead and Water Main Pipe Replacement program with a goal of replacing upwards of 4,900 lead pieces within 10 years. 

To do so, they have offered property owners the opportunity to defer the repayment of the cost of the lead line for up to five years. The private line replacement cost is split 60/40 between the city and resident.

In the past, the City of Prince Albert did offer a $2,000 incentive to complete the work, but the measure was scrapped in 2010.

Pitched by De Silva were the options to implement a mandatory replacement method, reinstate an incentive or deferred payment program or put a band-aid on the corrosion problem by adding phosphate to the water or installing filters.

Out of the gate early, strongly opposed to forcing private owners to do the work was Coun. Ted Zurakowski.

“I am certainly not in favour of any mandatory work,” Zurakowski said, wanting to explore other options. “The city is not coming on my property to tell me what to do with my property.”

While Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp was in favour of mirroring the mandatory Saskatoon program, wanted to city gather more information on tax deferral payment options.

“I think it just makes sense. If we have already opened up the asphalt … that money is already gone from city coffers, maybe we look at the mandatory program,” she said. “It is a bigger issue for the community.”

No final decision was made Monday night on the topic, as council asked administrators to gather more information and report back at a later date.

 

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On Twitter: @JournoMarr

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