With more than 30 years’ experience in the residential and commercial water treatment industry, Mark Nelson is a Class 1 Drinking-Water Operator and a CBWA (Canadian Bottled Water Association) Certified Plant Operator. As founder and president of Nelson Water in Ottawa, Mark focuses on dealing with challenging water treatment system designs for problem water. He also heads the largest water bottling plant in the city of Ottawa with a delivery network throughout the Valley.


Testing for Lead in Your Water

Is the Water in your Home Lead Free?

Most Canadians are aware that lead contamination in their water supply can be a very serious problem. However, even though lead fittings and pipes have not been in common usage for decades in our country, it is possible that your home is at risk of lead contamination from the brass fittings used in your plumbing. While you may be convinced that your home does not contain lead pipe work, brass is used in almost all fittings for both residential and commercial water distribution systems. Almost every household faucet, valve, well pump and plumbing fitting is in fact made with parts manufactured from brass. Lead is added to the brass in the fabrication process to aid in casting the component, but it is feasible for this lead to leach into your water supply.

Lead in Your Drinking Water, what are the Sources?  

Lead contamination in drinking water is chiefly the result of corrosion and oxidation of the materials used during plumbing installation, such as the lead solder, bronze or brass components. The quantity of lead attributable to corrosion depends on a number of factors including the age of the materials, the amount of time the materials are left in contact with the water, the manufacture processes and the aggressiveness or corrosive characteristics of the water. As lead does not alter taste, appearance or odor of water, it could be that lead is stealthily contaminating your water supply, potentially compromising your health and that of your family.

The Amount of Lead found in Plumbing Fixtures

Although The MOE (Ministry of the Environment) regulates the testing and standards of public drinking water supplies throughout Canada, drinking water is regulated provincially (the specific regulation for lead is called O. reg. 243/07.)  This regulation falls under the Safe Drinking Water Act 2002.  This said, these rules are not applicable to individual water systems including private wells.  As such, if you are a well owner, it is up to you to ensure that your water is TRULY free of harmful agents and actually safe to drink.

Can Lead Free Fittings Still Really add Lead to Your Drinking Water?

Even lead free fittings, which comply with regulation O. reg. 243/07, have some traces of lead in them.  While this level of lead may be small, it’s a matter of personal choice if ANY amount of lead in your water is acceptable. Even when the device is in contact with relatively non-corrosive water, the water can be contaminated with lead for a substantial amount of time after the installation. While the amount of lead, which may leach into your water supply from a brass fitting is not altogether related to the lead quantity of the fixture, obviously the greater the amount of lead, the greater the risk of “lead pollution.”  This means that if your plumbing fixtures were repaired or installed before 2002, they are likely to contain even higher amounts of lead, putting you and your family at bigger risk. Since lead is not detectable by taste, odor or appearance, it is, important to have your water tested by a CWQA Water Professional. Laboratory testing is the only reliable method of determining if your water supply has been contaminated by lead leaching from your brass fittings or any other source.