We’re Not Flint, but There Could Still Be Chemicals in Your Toronto Tap Water
With news continuously coming out of Flint, Michigan of their tap water problems, it’s understandable that we’re all a little on edge when it comes to our own drinking water. What this water crisis does is remind us to consider for a moment, that high levels of chemicals in our drinking water can cause long-term effects we may not be fully aware of.
However, with access to the Great Lakes and one of the world’s largest sources of freshwater, Canadians thankfully don’t have as much to fear as our American counterparts, but we’re not immune to contaminated water, either.
We’ll go through the common chemicals found in your water, both safe and unsafe, that can be resolved with pipe lining systems and epoxy lining.
According to the City of Toronto website, Toronto’s water is cleaned using the least amount of chemicals.
- Of 75 contaminants laid out by Health Canada’s Canadian and Ontario Drinking Water Guidelines, Toronto’s water is frequently tested for 71 of those.
- Eliminations were made because of previous tests that come in at under 1/10th of the acceptable standard, or are so minimal that tracking has been deemed unnecessary.
- These tests are undergone every four to six hours, yet the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) only tests bottled water plants every three years.
Despite trace amounts of chemicals, your tap water in Toronto has been filtered and cleaned to be completely safe to drink as it leaves the water treatment plant. But what happens to that water by the time it comes out of your tap?
Due to ageing infrastructure and a plethora of lead pipes still remaining throughout the City of Toronto, reports of unsafe levels of lead were found in over 13% of neighbourhood tests. Since 2008, the City of Toronto has been committed to replacing or lining city-owned lead pipe systems, and encouraging homeowners to update their service mains through a city-funded rebate program.
So, there’s lead, but what else is in my water?
Before the water comes flowing through our kitchen and bathroom taps, it must be cleaned out in order to make it drinkable. The city uses chlorine and aluminium as the two main chemicals to treat our water supply. What do these chemicals contribute to the water? Are they safe to drink and what are the long-term side effects?
Chlorination is the process by which The City treats its water to control the levels of bacteria, algae and any other existing viruses from contaminating your drinking water. As long as chlorine is present in minor doses, the chemical itself isn’t harmful. Before the water actually reaches your taps, sulphur dioxide is added in order to control the level of chlorine to 0.9 milligrams per each litre of water, which is not an alarming amount.
So if the chlorine levels in our drinking water are controlled, is this really harmful for us? While the chlorine isn’t the problem, it’s the byproduct that is. Trihalomethanes (THM) is a byproduct of chlorine that can cause damage to cells. Increased levels of THM over a long period of time can also increase the risk of bladder and colon cancer, according to The City of Toronto.
More specifically, high chlorine levels in drinking water has been connected to a 14-16% increase in bladder cancer and an 18% increase in rectal and colon cancer in Canada.
The cancer risk assessment examined the long term use, 35 years, of water with high levels of THM that exceeded 50 parts per billion. But because the average level of THM in Toronto water treatment plants was 14 parts per billion at the time of the study, the results did not conclude that the increase in cases was correlated simply to chlorination.
Another chemical, aluminum sulphate, that is used to treat our water has been linked closely to Alzheimer’s Disease. Typically, an average glass of water contains ¼ of the amount of aluminum sulphate considered harmful. A Canadian journal report on ageing suggests a potential connection between aluminum levels over 250 parts per billion in drinking water with Alzheimer’s. While no direct conclusions have been made by medical researchers, excessive aluminum remains in the water aren’t healthy.
However, aluminum is a necessary chemical to use during the water treatment process, as it removes harmful micro-organisms from our drinking water. What essentially happens is that the aluminum content unites these harmful microscopic particles into larger chunks so that they are easily filtered out of our water supply at the plants. After the aluminum works its magic, it is filtered out as best as possible but some of the chemical remains in the city’s water supply.
While The City closely monitors chemical levels in our drinking water, the deeper we dig, the more we find the harmful effects of lead in our water systems or excessive presence of aluminum or chlorine.
How can updating your pipe lining systems help?
Lead pipe lining and high levels of chemicals including aluminum and chlorine can cause long term issues, some of which we aren’t fully aware of. The City of Toronto has been working to replace city-owned water mains since 2008. The reason for this is predominantly to overcome the alarmingly high levels of lead and chemicals in Toronto’s drinking water due to ancient pipes. The combination of lead coupled with increased levels of aluminum sulphate and chlorine can cause serious issues, some of which we are still discovering.
In Flint, Michigan, the corrosivity of their drinking water can be directly related to a couple causes. The rising costs of phosphoric acid, the chemical that inhibits corrosion and prevents lead and other metals from leaching into their water, made treating the Flint River a costly endeavor. Further, the switch to chloride-based aluminum coagulant salts altered the chloride-to-sulfate ratio in the water could be linked to higher concentrations of lead in systems with lead pipes.
Despite all efforts, it can take up to 30 years to replace the harmful lead pipes that weave through the City of Toronto to supply us drinking water. In order to encourage residents to help with Toronto’s goal of a lead-free city, Toronto City Council is working to implement a reimbursement program that will assist homeowners in paying for the replacement of their lead service pipes. What this means is that once the bill is passed, the city will repay up to $2,500 to property owners for replacing their older, harmful pipes.
While The City works towards helping you make these pipeline upgrades, affordable trenchless water main replacement solutions can help free you and your family of high levels of harmful chemicals that remain in our drinking water. Residents shy away from pipe replacement because they see it as an inconvenient, intrusive task that requires tearing up the yard.
However, Canadian Pipe Lining Technologies’ trenchless pipelining systems are a non-disruptive way to upgrade your service lines without harming your property. We can replace pipes anywhere from ½” to 22” in diameter and update your watermains, with a 10-year warranty. Our trenchless pipelining systems are a cost-effective, long-term solution to overcome the high levels of lead and harmful chemicals in your drinking water.
If you’re concerned about the harmful effects of chemicals in your water and looking to replace your services pipes, contact one of Canadian Pipe Lining Technologies’ technicians today to learn about the benefits of our pipe lining system for your family and home.