The city needs to get the lead out.

After a successful pilot stage, Ottawa will likely pick up the lead pipe replacement program, but proponents say the city is moving too slowly.

A city committee approved staff recommendations yesterday to continue the $1-million a year Lead Service Replacement Program. But on that budget, the city will only be able to replace about 150 service lines per year.


“Given the risk, it should be a priority for the city to replace the pipes as soon as possible,” said Megan McGarrity, who sits on Ottawa’s environmental advisory committee. “It seems very contradictory that we are told lead is a dangerous neurotoxin, but that there is a safe level to have in our water.”

But the city also replaces between 900 and 1,200 lead pipes per year as part of its Watermain Renewal Program and Dixon Weir, director of utility services, said at that rate all lead pipes into city homes should be replaced within 17 years. The EAC wants all lead pipes replaced by 2010.

For the report, the city tested 1,012 homes for lead content and found the vast majority of homes tested lower than 3 micrograms per litre. The provincial standard is 10 micrograms per litre. Only one house was above that level.

Coun. Alex Cullen, who is not on the committee, said he was appalled there was a limit on the number of homes that can have pipes changed under the program in one year, and promised debate on the issue at council.

But not all councillors were in a rush.

“I think even $1 million a year for a problem that according to Ontario standards doesn’t even exist is too much money to spend,” Coun. Gord Hunter said.

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