Skip Navigation

Lead in Drinking Water

Corrosion Control Plan

The City of Thunder Bay is required to have an approved Corrosion Control Plan in accordance with Drinking Water System Regulation O. Reg. 170/03.

The City has moved ahead with the next phase of its Corrosion Control Plan to add sodium hydroxide to its water supply to reduce the amount of lead found in tap water. Beginning in early 2018, the pH of the City’s drinking water will be increased to reduce lead levels at the tap by adding small amounts of sodium hydroxide to the water at the Bare Point Water Treatment Plant. Sodium hydroxide is a safe and approved water treatment chemical.

The removal of lead service pipes remains a key priority in the Plan. However, the full removal of lead service
pipes will take many years to accomplish. In the short term, lead levels will be reduced in private plumbing systems
across the City through the addition of sodium hydroxide for pH adjustment.

Public Engagement and Information Materials
The City hosted a series of Public Information Session regarding the Corrosion Control Plan and also distributed public notices to customers with their water bills. For information, please view the resources and documents below.

Important Public Notice - Drinking Water System Change to Reduce Lead Levels at the Tap Pamphlet Adobe PDF, 2 pages, 1,159 KB
Storyboards from 2017-2018 Public Information Session  Adobe PDF, 9 pages, 350 KB

Corrosion Control Chemical (Sodium Hydroxide) FAQ Adobe PDF, 1 page, 156 KB
City of Thunder Bay Corrosion Control Plan City of Thunder Bay Corrosion Control Plan Adobe PDF, 29 pages, 1.97 MB 
Corrosion Control Pilot Study - Hodder Pressure Zone Adobe PDF, 11 pages, 749 KB

Lead in Drinking Water

The MOECC regulates the presence of lead in municipal drinking water. In 2007, the MOECC determined that drinking water samples taken from some consumers' taps in southern Ontario contained levels of lead above the drinking water quality standards set out in provincial regulations. The standard is 0.01 milligrams per litre (equivalent to 10 micrograms per litre).    Testing for Lead in Drinking Water

Consequently, the Ontario government initiated a water testing program making it mandatory for municipalities to test water lead levels in 100 homes that may still have lead connections in the water service. The testing program for a sampling of older homes in Thunder Bay has been ongoing. Results show that over 25% of the homes with a known or suspected lead service pipe are over the standard of 10 ppb lead. Therefore, the City of Thunder Bay is required to have an approved Corrosion Control Plan.

How does lead get into drinking water?

The raw water from Lake Superior and water supplied from the drinking water distribution system contain little or no lead. However, lead is occasionally found in the water service pipes and the plumbing in homes, which can dissolve into the water supply from these sources. Lead can enter tap water through corrosion of plumbing materials like lead solder, fixtures or lead pipes. Lead can also leach into the drinking water from chrome or brass-plated faucets and fixtures.

How do I determine if I have lead pipes in my home?

Lead pipes were used in older homes, usually built before 1952. Lead pipe is easy to bend, dullish grey in colour and leaves a silver mark when scratched on another surface.

What should I do with my tap water if I live in a house with a lead service pipe or plumbing?

Before using water for drinking or cooking, you should let your water run from the cold water tap for five minutes. Water that has been standing in the pipes for more than six hours should not be used for consumption, as it may have taken up more lead than water actively running through the pipes. To avoid wasting water, take a shower, or run a washing machine or dishwasher to clear the pipes. Once you have let the water run, fill pitchers, kettles or pots for drinking or for food preparation during the day.

Does lead in drinking water pose a health risk?

Yes. Although lead is a common metal found in the environment in air, soil, household dust, food, certain types of pottery and water, it can have significant effects on your health if too much enters your body. The greatest risk is to young children and pregnant women. Lead exposure is a world-wide health problem. If you have, or suspect you have a lead water service, alternate sources of drinking water should be considered for young children and pregnant women.

Can I get my water tested?

Yes. If you are concerned about lead levels in your water, contact the City of Thunder Bay, Environment Division at 625-2195 to arrange a free test for lead in your water.

What is the City doing to reduce lead?

The City has programs to help reduce lead levels in our drinking water. The watermain replacement program ensures the piped water infrastructure is renewed. When watermains are replaced, the individual residential service connections are also replaced to the property line. The homeowner has the option to make arrangements with the contractor, at that time, to replace the service from the property line into the house at their own expense.

The City also has a cleaning and rehabilitation program to line older watermains with a protective coating. Regular water quality maintenance includes flushing and cleaning of watermains.

Each year, the City of Thunder Bay sends more than 2,400 water samples to an independent laboratory to be monitored for potential contaminants. Plant staff routinely test operational parameters such as colour, pH and alkalinity.

From January 2015 to January 2017, the City of Thunder Bay’s Environment Division – Water Authority conducted a Pilot Study in the Hodder pressure zone to reduce lead corrosion. Small amounts of sodium hydroxide were injected into the water to increase the pH in order to minimize the corrosion of lead in private service lines, and thus reduce lead levels at the tap. Study confirmed Corrosion Control through chemical addition is a Safe and Effective method to reduce lead levels at the tap.

Lead reduction has commenced with the start of the City-wide pH adjustment. This is done through the addition of sodium hydroxide to the drinking water system, which is a safe and effective method to reduce lead levels at the tap.

What can I do if I have a private lead water service pipe?

If the private portion of your water service pipe is made of lead, you can have it replaced.

If there is no road work taking place on your street, you will need to contact an excavator and a plumber (consult the Yellow Pages).

Get the Lead OutIf watermain replacement is taking place on your street, you may be able to arrange the water service pipe replacement at the same time. Consult the contractor working on your street. You will also need to hire a plumber to complete the connection of the water service pipe to your water meter.

In all cases, you will need a Building/Plumbing Permit from the City. Please print out the Building Permit, Plumbing Permit and Guide below.

I've replaced my lead water service pipe, but the City-owned portion of the service pipe is still made of lead. Should I contact the City?

Yes, if you suspect you have a lead service pipe connection and are concerned about lead levels in your water, contact the City of Thunder  Bay, Environment Division at 625-2195 to arrange a free test. In addition, print out and complete the "Priority Lead Water Service Replacement" PDF below, attach your documentation and mail or bring it to the City's Environment Division. We will use the information to prioritize your street for watermain and service line replacement.

More Information:
See the City of Thunder Bay Corrosion Control Plan  Adobe PDF, 29 pages, 1.2 MB

Visit the Ministry of the Environment & Climate Change's Drinking Water Ontario website.

In addition, visit Health Canada's webpage on reducing your exposure to lead from drinking water

For more information about Thunder Bay's drinking water, contact the Infrastructure & Operations Department at 625-2195.