Is there lead in your water?

Campaign for the Elimination of Lead in Drinking Water

The Gouvernement du Québec regulates and set the standards for the quality of our drinking water. In March 2019, Health Canada recommended that the maximum acceptable amount of lead in our water be reduced from 10 µg/L to 5 µg/L. In October of the same year, the provincial government announced that Quebec would become the first province to adopt the recently lowered norms. The City of Westmount is committed to proactive intervention with this lead elimination campaign to ensure the quality of drinking water on our territory.

Old lead pipes affect the quality of drinking water. While the City of Westmount continues to update the network of public services, it cannot operate on private property. Therefore, the City has identified households that may be at risk for higher lead levels based on specific criteria, and encourages these homeowners and residents to opt-in for in-home water testing. Together, we can eliminate undesirable lead concentration levels in our drinking water.

Some Answers to Your Questions

Drinking water produced and distributed by the Montreal and Westmount aqueduct network is of excellent quality and meets all regulatory standards.

There are no lead drinking water mains in our system. However, there are still lead water services on public and private land that supply residences from these main lines. Since the 1970s, the modernization of municipal infrastructure has reduced lead levels on our territory, but there is still work to be done to remove the remaining lead water inlets.

Private residences likely to have higher lead levels have been identified based on the following criteria: residences and apartment buildings of 8 units or less built before 1971. Residences meeting this criteria are encouraged to participate in the City’s in-home water testing programme. The City also provides support and information to help maintain the quality of drinking water in these homes.

In addition, the interactive map of utility entrances shows areas identified as being at higher risk. The replacement of lead water services on public land is underway and a list of completed and upcoming projects is available below on this page.

Lead Elimination Action Plan

The City’s Action Plan consists of four key elements:

  • Replacing lead services on public land
  • Testing water in private residences, also called lead sampling
  • Distributing information booklets and water filters to higher risk households
  • Implementing a subsidy program for private lead service replacement

Current provincial regulations only require that water quality be maintained at the level of the municipal network. Increasingly, municipalities are implementing by-laws that extend the requirements for water quality all the way into residents’ homes, meaning households served by lead pipes are required to upgrade to safer materials. While this is not the case currently in Westmount, we do encourage residents to take a proactive approach in informing themselves on the plumbing situation at their home and on the process involved in updating lead or galvanized steel pipes.

The City of Westmount took ownership of the water mains and the public portion of the water services from the City of Montreal in 2006.

Since 2007, the City has been actively replacing lead services through the annual capital works programme as well as through the Public Works’ annual water maintenance programme. To date, 45% of lead water services in Westmount have been replaced with copper pipes.

Since 2015, the City has undertaken an aggressive water main replacement and rehabilitation investment plan, including the replacement of the public portion of the water services. A 100% completion rate has been achieved for these projects.

Recently completed and upcoming projects:

  • 2020: Claremont (Sherbrooke – Côte-St-Antoine), Mount Pleasant (Sherbrooke – Holton), Stayner
  • 2021: Lexington (Sunnyside – northern limit), Devon (Lexington – Summit Crescent), Mount-Stephen
  • 2022: Arlington, Murray Hill, Claremont (De Maisonneuve – Sherbrooke)
  • 2023: Wood (Sainte-Catherine – Wood), Victoria (Côte-St-Antoine – Westmount), De Casson, Edgehill (Lexington – The Boulevard East), Grosvenor (Westmount – The Boulevard)

If the public portion of the water service connected to your property is made of lead, and the private portion has already been fitted with copper pipes, you may request the replacement of the public portion by the City. Each request will be processed according to the City’s planning constraints.

The City of Westmount has increased the number of in-home lead sampling tests beginning in 2023. The City was able to test the water in 100 homes in 2023 and can reach over 200 homes in each subsequent year.

Private residences across the City are prioritized for water testing based on their likelihood of being served by lead pipes. Homeowners and residents are encouraged to participate in this programme whereby, once the eligibility of their home is confirmed, they are invited to make an appointment with an independent and accredited laboratory mandated by the City who will administer the test in their home, at no cost to them. Residents can fill out the form linked below to receive an answer as to the eligibility of their home for testing and, if applicable, to make an appointment. Requests are processed on a first come, first served basis. If the appointment capacity for the current year is reached, eligible applications are placed on a reserve list and, if necessary, are placed on the list for the following year. Testing can only be done between July 1 and September 30 each year.

Residents can also test their water for lead at their own cost by contacting a laboratory that is accredited by the Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques.

Starting in 2023, the City of Westmount began distributing NSF/ANSI 53 compliant pitcher-style filters to homes identified by the City as possibly being serviced by a lead water pipe on either the public or private side. Distribution is planned equitably across each district. Homes identified for distribution each year receive a pamphlet with information and the option to opt-out if they do not wish to receive a filter.

The City will be launching a subsidy programme for the replacement of private lead or galvanized steel water services. Eligible homes will receive a rebate of 25% of the water service replacement cost, up to a maximum of $2,500.

Eligibility is based on the following requirements:

  • A portion or the entire length of the private water service pipe must be made of lead or galvanized steel.
  • All lead or galvanized steel pipe between the City valve and the privately owned building must be replaced.
  • The work must be performed by a certified plumber, and necessary work and plumbing permits must be obtained from the City.

This information will be updated upon launch of the subsidy programme. If you would like to be notified once more information becomes available, opt-in at the link below.

Reducing Your Lead Exposure

Traces of lead are present everywhere in our environment: in the air, in the ground, in dust, in lead-based paint in old buildings, in food such as meat from hunting, and in various consumer goods such as children’s toys where lead is used to fix the color.

Water remains one of the principal sources of lead exposure.

How does lead get into our water?

  • Lead is generally not present in drinking water distribution systems. However, it can be found in small quantities in situations where pipes, especially service entrances, between certain houses and the municipal distribution network contain lead.
  • All homes built prior to 1970 are at high risk of being serviced by lead pipes as this was a commonly used material until this time.
  • Welds in the internal plumbing of buildings can also be a source of lead in water; the National Plumbing Code banned the use of solder containing more than 0.2% lead in 1989.

How can I reduce my lead exposure today?

While waiting for the results of an in-home water analysis, or for the completion of work to replace your service entry pipes, preventive measures can be adopted on a daily basis to reduce the risks of exposure to lead:

  • Use cold water
    Running your cold water tap will draw fresh water directly from the network and flush any water that had remained stagnant in a lead service pipe. Let the water run for 1-2 minutes after it has become cold to ensure all the stagnant water has been flushed out.
  • Regularly clean your faucet aerator
    Lead particles can break off from old pipes and get trapped in the faucet aerator. Learn how to clean your faucet aerator in just a few minutes.
  • Filter your water
    Use the pitcher type NSF/ANSI 53 compliant filter distributed by the City or a similar one that you have procured yourself.

Note: There is no need to boil water as lead does not evaporate and is not destroyed by boiling.

For more information

Public Health agency

Direction régionale de santé publique du CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’île-de-Montréal: www.santemontreal.qc.ca/leadinwater

Government regulations

Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MELCC): http://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/eau/potable/plomb/index.htm