District assures quality of drinking water after reports of lead issues in other communities

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A message from the District of Muskoka

Recent news reports regarding high levels of lead found in tap water in homes across Canada has prompted responses from municipalities across the country.  The District would like to assure the community that the municipal drinking water systems in Muskoka are safe.

“The District of Muskoka would like to confirm that there are no lead pipes in its municipal water distribution system,” said Marcus Firman, Director of Water and Wastewater Services with the District of Muskoka.

Municipal Drinking Water System Testing
Testing is undertaken regularly for lead in our distribution system, and the levels are always well below the Maximum Allowable Concentrations (MAC). Mandatory household sampling was conducted in 2007 and 2008 throughout Muskoka, and the results were such that Muskoka has been exempted from further household lead sampling. For more information and resources about Muskoka’s municipal drinking water system, please visit: www.muskoka.on.ca/en/live-and-play/Drinking-Water.aspx

Household Plumbing and Service Lines
In most of Canada, lead can enter the water supply from old lead pipes, lead solder and some fittings and fixtures in the plumbing of households. Lead solder was used for plumbing until 1990 when the National Plumbing Code of Canada no longer permitted the use of lead solder in new drinking water plumbing or in repairs to existing drinking water systems. Homeowners can be assured that lead pipes are not used throughout Muskoka in the municipal system, however, some fittings and solder connected to household plumbing may contain lead.

Schools and Childcare Centres
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit states that schools and childcare centres are required to sample their water for lead as per Ontario Regulation 243/07 under the Safe Water Act, 2002 to help reduce the risk to children from exposure to lead in plumbing. This legislation requires annual sampling and testing of lead in drinking water to ensure lead levels are below the provincial Drinking Water Quality Standard O. Regulation 169/03. It also requires flushing of plumbing in schools to help reduce lead levels in drinking water. Flushing has been shown to reduce lead levels in water and is a recognized lead reduction strategy. The regulatory requirements for testing and flushing for lead in schools fall under the regulatory authority of the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP). If a school drinking water test result comes back above the provincial standard for lead, the schools communicate these results to the local Medical Officer of Health and the MECP to ensure corrective actions are carried out and the problem is resolved in accordance with Ontario Regulation 243/07.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has information, tips and resources on their website at: http://www.simcoemuskokahealth.org/Topics/SafeWater/drinkingwater.aspx

Further information on flushing and sampling for lead in schools is available from the MECP at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/flushing-and-sampling-lead#section-3

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4 Comments

  1. Reassuring words from the District. But there may still be lead pipes in some really old homes. If there are grey pipes (as opposed to copper) in your basement, a test for lead at the tap might be a good idea. Just sayin’

  2. Beside getting the lead pipes out of your home, one of the most important improvements in the quality of drinking water is that fluoride is no longer being added to municipal water supplies here in Huntsville. New research shows that fluoride builds up in tissues and bones and is not the innocuous substance that we have been taught to think it is, since they began to add it to municipal water supplies after WWII. The web is full of information on the deleterious effect of fluoride.

    Chlorine is another substance that is necessary to assure pure water is delivered to households but, it should be filtered out by the end user, as it has a deleterious effect on gut bacteria.

    That is a relatively easy thing to do but glyphosate (Roundup) in our food supply is a much more persistent problem as a wider and wider array of foods are being sprayed with glyphosate weed killers. Even wheat (which is NOT “Roundup-ready”) is often sprayed with glyphosate, shortly before harvest, in order to kill the wheat plant and help in drying the grain while it is still in the field. While glyphosate is “non-toxic” to mammals, not so plants or bacteria which use the shikimate pathway as part of their metabolism. Glyphosate disrupts the shikimate pathway–that is how it works as a weed killer (with “Round-up” ready crops) and as a drying agent with those crops which are not “Roundup-ready”. Beneficial gut bacteria are killed as a result and beneficial bacteria in the intestines are essential for good health. The long-term effects of glyphosate are unknown but it is thought to be a possible carcinogen. Recently, shipments of Canadian wheat were rejected by Italy because of their glyphosate contamination. Some researchers feel that glyphosate may be the culprit behind the increase in gut diseases. There is an M.D./Ph.D. at M.I.T. (sorry, cannot recall her name at present) who believes that the rise in autism is due to the increasing presence of glyphosate in the food supply. It is also finding its way into water supplies. It must be addressed.

  3. Jim Logagianes on

    Thank you Erin for bringing these real concerns to everyone’s attention. Without a thorough analysis of everyone’s drinking water I find it rather unsettling for the District to confirm something without a thorough analysis. A water quality test that identifies everything in our municipal water supply would be more reassuring . Then we could determine for ourselves wether the water or what’s in it is detrimental to our health. . Has anyone ever had their municipal water tested thoroughly?

    • The problem of judging whether a municipal water supply is safe is a thorny one. There are a host of contaminants which are a possibility. Common contaminants are trihalomethanes, (as a by-product formed when water supplies are chlorinated) to lead (from the aforementioned lead piping) to arsenic and radium due to a naturally-occurring presence in the soil of many areas of N. America (both are thought to be carcinogens). Some are in trace amounts and some are well over what is thought to be “safe”.

      Some examples of really horrific groundwater contamination have been in farming areas as a result of agricultural chemicals leeching into the groundwater and the same is true for industrial waste, where there was little or no thought given to the long-term consequences of treating our rivers as industrial sewer lines in the past. Farmers in Iowa were falsely assured that the agricultural chemical, atrazine, that they were spraying on their corn fields was going to stay in the upper layers of soil. It was discovered too late that atrazine can and does leech into groundwater and many wells there have undrinkable water due to high levels of atrazine contamination (another suspected carcinogen). The agricultural chemical industry has a great deal to answer for as they knew that much of what they were telling farmers and groundskeepers was untrue. They have been facing many lawsuits as a result. There are huge awards being granted to plaintiffs over the glyphosate fiasco. Monsanto (the creator of “Roundup” brand of glyphosate) has been bought by Bayer Chemical and it appears to be “full-steam” ahead in promoting the contamination of food and water supplies with the enormous and ever-increasing dumping of glyphosate on our farmland. In an ultimate outrage, it was revealed a few years ago that only organic foods are served in employee dining rooms at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis. Organic foods are, by law, supposed to be certified as to having been raised free of agricultural chemicals. Although, if groundwater has been contaminated, with the millions of pounds of glyphosate that is dumped on fields, that is another source of taking in the chemical.

      As we have little in the way of agriculture here and even less of industry, there is not likely gross contamination from these sources–although there was, at one time, a tannery here and one in Bracebridge which required site remediation. Tanneries were notorious for gross pollution in the past but are among the leaders in anti-pollution technologies in N. America and Europe today. There are many strategies which have been put in place throughout N. America, to significantly reduce or eliminate contamination of the environment and to protect worker safety. Not so in Third World countries where there are few, if any, pollution standards at tanneries and in other industries, to protect the environment and the workers. We may get much cheaper products from them but at what cost to the workers and the environment. China has been forced to deal with the extreme industrial pollution that has occurred to their environment under Communism. There are whole cities which are known as “cancer cities” among the Chinese citizenry. Wealthy Chinese people have been known to insist that they would NEVER eat anything grown in Chinese soil. China is also a primary contributor to the massive (the size of Texas) “plastic blob” in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The rivers of China and S. E. Asia are full of gross amounts of plastic trash that then finds its way into the Pacific.

      In general, municipalities are right to insist that potential polluters deal with contamination at source, rather than the municipality trying to deal with it once it has already been released into the environment. Municipalities have tried to deal with the problem of the creation of trihalomethanes by reducing the amount of chlorine in disinfection processes but no one is interested in creating an e-coli disaster like Walkerton. The amount of chlorine added must be tightly controlled and frequent testing for bacterial contamination must be done to assure safety. The commission studying Walkerton cited many reasons why the system failed in the proper disinfection of the water supply. As a result, seven people died and 2,300 others were sickened. Some sustained permanent kidney damage.

      Drinking bottled water is no assurance of safety either. There are few, if any regulations concerning the testing of bottled water (which can have plasticizing chemicals in it as a result of the plastic containers used). Frequently, bottled water is merely high-priced tap water that has been filtered for objectionable taste and odors. It would be much more cost-effective to filter it as the end user and then put it in a glass pitcher in the fridge or in reusable stainless steel or glass-lined containers for taking with one.

      These are just some of the issues involved in drinking water safety.

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