On April 29, U.S. President Joe Biden gave his first address to Congress. Early in his speech he identified lead water pipes as a "clear and present danger" to American public health and announced a 100 per cent replacement of lead water pipes found in 10 million U.S. homes and 400,000 schools and child-care centres as a major part of the America’s Job Plan, so that every American has safe drinking water.
Here in Canada, all levels of government need to get serious about lead levels in our drinking water.
In 2019, Health Canada announced new guidelines for lead exposure. Its findings were troubling. Lead concentrations in drinking water "should be kept as low as reasonably achievable as lead exposures are inherently unsafe and have serious health consequences," especially for children and expectant mothers.
Since those new guidelines were announced, many Canadian cities have taken steps to help homeowners replace lead water pipe connections from their basements to city property lines. Halifax, Calgary and others have launched rebate, loan, grant, and incentive programs for lead water pipe replacement costs that can run up to $4,000 per property. Winnipeg has not.
Winnipeg has 23,000 homes with lead water pipe connections to the city’s main waterline. The Elmwood-East Kildonan area has 2,755 of these homes. If you live in a home built before 1950, chances are you have these lead water pipe connections to the main line.
If you’re not sure what kind of water pipes you have, you can call the city at 311. Winnipeg has an inventory of homes and public buildings, including schools and daycares, that have lead water pipe connections, and they’ll provide property owners with the information.
This is a health problem that requires decisive government action. The province needs to take the clear initiative and immediately contact all home and property owners in Manitoba with lead water pipes connected to main lines and provide full financial support for lead water pipe replacement so their access to safe water is assured and exposure to lead and its health risks are eliminated.
If you have any questions about provincial programs, feel free to contact me at 204-415-1122 or email me at Jim.Maloway@yourmanitoba.ca
Elmwood constituency report
Jim Maloway is the NDP MLA for Elmwood.