Report Finds Montreal's Drinking Water Has More Lead Than Water In Toronto & Flint

A Canada-wide report finds that 33% of homes exceed lead safety limits.
Staff Writer
Report Finds Montreal's Drinking Water Has More Lead Than Water In Toronto & Flint
  • Reports have found that Montreal's tap water has one of the highest amounts of lead-contamination among North American cities.
  • The report looks at Toronto, Canada and Flint, Michigan in comparison, with Montreal being the worst of the three.
  • Find the interactive map below to see if your area's water is affected by lead contamination!

According to reports, the findings obtained from the drinking water investigation undertaken by Global News, The Toronto Star, Le Devoir and Concordia’s Institute for Investigative Journalism confirm that Montreal's tap water lead levels are worse than those in Toronto and Flint, Michigan. 

Though Montreal city officials claim that tap water in the city is safe to drink, it was found that on average, 58% of water tested in homes in Montreal have lead levels above the recommended 5 parts-per-billion. In fact, homes with only lead service lines in Montreal were found to contain, on average, 7.3 parts-per-billion of lead. 

Compared to Flint, Michigan, Montreal is roughly on par. According to the report, samples tested in Flint found that, on average, homes will contain 7.6 parts-per-billion of lead. Water tests occurred once the pipes had been flushed for 3 minutes (Flint) and 5 minutes (Montreal).

In an interview with Global News, Montreal's Director of Water Services claimed that Montreal's situation is different from Flint's because it's only our pipes that are the problem. Our water treatment processes are bar-none but the problem happens when the water moves through lead service pipes. 

Toronto's lead levels used to be the highest in Canada but in 2008, the city added a safe chemical solution to help stop lead contamination. Now, fewer than 2% of samples tested in Toronto exceed the recommended lead limits.

Montreal city officials estimate that some 300,000 residents have lead service lines in their homes. Last week, the city of Montreal released an interactive map to help locals find out if their water is at risk. 

In over 15 years of testing, Montreal's lead levels were found to be among the highest in the country, with over 9,000 exceedances and over 70 parts-per-billion in some Montreal homes, says Global News.

[rebelmouse-image 26888621 photo_credit="Ville de Montreal" expand=1 original_size="1920x956"] Ville de Montreal

While Flint's water crisis came from insufficient water treatment and government failures, Montreal's problems stem from its rapidly-ageing water pipe system.

When the city of Toronto found that their ageing water system was at risk of contaminating residents' drinking water, it quickly implemented corrosion control. In 2014, lead levels in Toronto dropped by 90% thanks to this solution. 

Meanwhile, the city of Montreal has decided to tackle the problem by promising to replace every single lead service line in the city by 2030. It's a costly solution and is already four years behind schedule.

READ ALSO: Environment Canada Forecasts Three Days Of Snow This Week In Montreal

Flint's water crisis began in 2014 and wasn't declared an emergency until 2016. Apparently, officials knew about the contaminated water source and still promoted it as safe because the new source was more cost-effective. 

After 12 people died and thousands more got sick, Flint finally declared a state of emergency. Flint is still struggling with its water crisis to this day and the former Governor is under investigation. 

Across Canada, some 500,000 homes are at risk, with most of them in Montreal. Lead exposure puts children most at risk and is attributed to developmental and neurological diseases. 

If you're worried about lead exposure in your home, you can purchase your own testing kit at a hardware store, or contact a professional water treatment service.

Health Canada's recommended safe levels are less than 5 parts-per-billion but officials note that no amount of lead is "safe."

It'll be a long process, but Montreal is finally taking steps to ensure that our drinking water is lead-free. 

Teddy Elliot
Staff Writer
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