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Sault Ste. Marie Potential Lead (Pb) in Drinking Water (2007-Present)


Client: Sault Ste. Marie District Social Services Administration Board, PUC Inc. and Algoma Public Health

Recent studies in Ontario have shown that even routine flushing of water services is not necessarily enough to reduce the concentrations of lead in some homes accessing municipal water systems. The Ontario government requested all municipalities in Ontario to do twenty water samples to test for lead. Most municipalities selected twenty homes at random in older neighbourhoods in hopes of finding appropriate homes to test that may have lead water service pipes in the ground. In Sault Ste. Marie, the CGC utilized the detailed information in the GIS system to identify the twenty homes that would have the highest probability of having lead. These twenty homes were tested and many had visible lead pipes in the basements. One home had lead levels above the recommended value.

In fall 2007, the Ontario government set aside money for citizens on social assistance with children under six, on disability assistance with children under six or in households with low income to get free water tests and possibly free water tap filters. Most communities had the social services office contact all citizens meeting these requirements and ask them to get a water sample, if the test showed unacceptable lead they would get a free tap filter. The problem with this approach is that most homes do not have lead water issues. In Sault Ste. Marie, the CGC followed a different approach. Studying GIS data, the CGC determined which streets and which homes were likely to have possible lead water issues. It was determined that lead pipes were used in Sault Ste. Marie between 1943 and 1948, although galvanized pipes were used in a number of periods before 1950. Galvanized pipes often have lead flex loops as galvanized pipe is not very flexible in the ground. The CGC identified all homes and businesses with known lead and galvanized pipes and then identified all buildings that were of the right age to possibly have these types of pipes. Social services provided the postal codes of clients meeting the provinces requirements and the CGC looked for the postal codes that matched postal codes of homes with possible lead or galvanized pipes. The matching postal codes were returned to social services and they determined the exact addresses in these postal codes and are now contacting these citizens to arrange for tests. This reduced the number of people to contact and the tests to be done from several thousand to just over a hundred.

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