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Flush Water Pipes to Reduce Lead Contamination Risk, Schools Told

It looks like a case of health care via health scare in the West. Panic triggered off by relatively minor episodes is resulting in preemptive efforts on a vast scale. In Canada after the measles outbreak, it is the risk of lead contamination that is engaging the attention of the Ontario province authorities.

They have now ordered most schools in the region to flush their water pipes daily. Provocation? Water samples in many communities showed unacceptable levels of level. As many as 16 of 36 communities tested, including Toronto, Hamilton, Guelph and St. Catharines were found to be in the danger zone, so to speak.

Of 180 homes tested in Toronto since Jan. 1 20 under provincial orders 14 had water with lead exceeding the recommended maximum. Environment Minister Laurel Broten immediately ordered all Ontario schools and daycares built before 1990 when lead solder for pipes was banned to run their taps daily for at least five minutes to remove any contaminants from pipes unused for six or more hours.

The province is also proposing that municipalities start regularly testing for lead at a specified number of taps, notify the building owners and take corrective action. Toronto has 65,000 homes connected to the city's water system via lead pipes, according to Councillor Janet Davis, who said yesterday that the city should be doing more to inform homeowners about the replacement option and perhaps develop "creative financing" to help lower-income residents do so.

Lead levels of 10 parts per billion are considered acceptable. Of the 160 homes the city voluntarily tested, 7.5 per cent exceeded the recommended level, with all but one of the elevated readings in the teens. But those tests have also been criticized because they were done on household taps after they had run for about five minutes. One piece of advice to people concerned about lead is to flush the pipes before drinking so they are drawing on fresh
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