At the Wed May 26 council meeting, the Cathedral Area Community Association will be raising concerns about lead service connections in Regina. Council will be considering a recommendation to replace all lead connections in 15 years even though council in 2019 clearly indicated they wanted to see those connections removed by 2025.
You can find a link to the live stream of the May 26 council meeting here. The meeting starts at 1pm and the lead service connector report is the eighth item on the agenda.
The press release the CACA sent out in advance of the meeting is below…
For immediate release
May 25, 2021
City urged to keep its promise to remove lead pipes within five years
Delaying lead water line replacements for up to 15 years endangers the health of Regina residents, according to a member of the Cathedral Area Community Association, representing several Associations in the Central Zone, home to some of the most affected neighbourhoods in the City.
“Regina drinking water has among the highest lead levels in Canada. This should be treated as a health emergency,” said Casey Peart on behalf of the associations.
In 2019, City Council voted unanimously to replace all lead service lines within five years. Now Council is considering a recommendation to delay completion for 15 years.
Health Canada’s drinking water guidelines state there is no known safe level of lead consumption, noting it causes damage to the heart, brain and kidneys, as well as pregnancy complications, and is also suspected to be cancer-causing. “Reduced intelligence in children measured as decreases in IQ is the most sensitive and well established health effect of lead exposure,” according to Health Canada.
“It is unreasonable to expect residents to wait 10 or 15 years to be protected from a toxic substance in their drinking water,” said Peart. “Fifteen years means babies born today may be exposed to lead contamination for their entire childhoods.”
The Community Associations have forwarded recommendations to City Council outlining options for financing lead line removal and improving filtration protections for residents while they wait for new water lines. “We’ve heard from residents that they have to navigate far too many hurdles to obtain tests and filters,” said Peart. “As a result, there is no equitable protection of all residents. Renters, seniors and low income residents are among those left behind.”
Health Canada advises that “the best approach to minimize exposure to lead from drinking water is to remove the full lead service line.” Saskatoon has aggressively pursued replacement of city-owned lines and is on track to complete the work by the end of 2026, compared to Regina’s proposal to complete the work in 2036. As well, Saskatoon is covering 60 per cent of the cost for home-based line replacements, unlike Regina, which is offering a repayment plan for the full cost.
“Citizens are growing tired of waiting for politicians to take drinking water safety seriously,” said Peart. There has been a rising number of class action lawsuits related to neglect of water infrastructure in Canada and the US, perhaps most notably the lead-water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where water tested with lead levels comparable to those in parts of the City of Regina. “There are, unfortunately, countless examples of how unsafe water disproportionately affects marginalized communities. We want to ensure there is an expeditious plan to ensure safe drinking water for all residents of Regina, regardless of which communities they live in.” Peart says.
“This is an urgent crisis that demands immediate action. While we appreciate the complexity of resolving this issue and the amendments put forward by Council to help protect renters, however a 15-year plan is not the roadmap we need. We, as Community Associations, look forward to discussing how we can collaborate with the City to address this.” said Peart.