As many as 5,200 Toronto households in older parts of the city may have lead levels in their tap water that exceed provincial guidelines, test results released yesterday by the city suggest.
While officials said the results are nothing new, one councillor said the city should be both warning residents and working faster to eliminate lead pipes, which were banned more than a half-century ago.
"I believe we should be doing more," said City Councillor Janet Davis (Ward 31, Beaches-East York), calling for notices to be sent to every home with lead water pipes. " ... I think we should be looking at how we could get these pipes replaced faster."
City officials released two batches of test results at a news conference at city hall. One, which was mandated by the province, includes 20 homes with lead water-service pipes.
While the average reading, at 4.3 parts per billion, was far below the Ontario maximum of 10 parts per billion, two homes clocked in at elevated levels: one at 11, the other at 13 ppb. Tests of nearby fire hydrants were all well below the standard level.
Toronto Water regularly tests for lead at homeowners' request, and so also submitted a second batch of 160 tests, which showed 12 households with too much lead, including one that registered 30 parts per billion. Taken together, the two batches show that about 8 per cent of homes with lead service lines could have elevated lead levels.
While the vast majority of Toronto's 500,000 water connections are not made of lead, about 65,000 homes in older neighbourhoods may still have lead connections. Extrapolating yesterday's test results across the city suggests that 8 per cent of those, or about 5,200, would flunk a lead test.
All the tests were done after a five-minute flush, achieved by running the taps to clear out standing water. Even more lead might be found if those in older homes fail to do this in the morning or after coming home in the evening, as water officials recommend.
The city is gradually removing about 3,500 lead connections a year, as well as changing them over when it replaces water mains. Lou Di Gironimo, general manager of Toronto Water, said he would be reporting to city council soon on how much it would cost to speed things up. As it stands, a lead-pipe-free system is still at least 13 years away, he said.
While the city is flooded with requests, any Toronto homeowner who wants a free lead test can call 416-392-2894.