Is Montreal’s lead problem worse than Flint, Michigan’s?
Lead levels in the tap water of some parts of Montreal are as high as those in Flint, Michigan, at the peak of their water crisis in 2015, says a senior city official.
The official confirmed the numbers from thousands of water test results obtained during a joint investigation by Global News, The Toronto Star, Le Devoir and Concordia’s Institute for Investigative Journalism.
But municipal and provincial government officials both say that Montreal’s water is safe and that the situation in the metropolis is different than the crisis that struck the American city.
The secrets of Canada’s tap water, explained
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante has also introduced new measures to remove lead from the city’s tap water in the wake of this investigation’s findings. Among the changes will be a requirement for all underground lead pipes to be replaced, on both sides of the property line.
She told Global News in an interview that Montreal would do the work and bill the owners for their own portion of the replacement, giving households 15 years to pay the bill. The city is also offering free filters to households with high lead levels in their tap water, as well as introducing a new website that will allow people to search to see if their address might have a lead problem.
Flint’s crisis sprang from a decision to draw water from a more corrosive water source into an old and deteriorating lead pipe infrastructure.
The result was a perfect public health storm.
Headlines around the world highlighted not just lead-contaminated drinking water but the deaths of 12 people from a Legionnaire’s outbreak, as bacteria spread through the water system.
Montreal has tens of thousands of lead service lines underground that link its water mains to the homes of nearly 300,000 people, according to city estimates. As a result, these residents in houses or apartment buildings with eight dwellings or less are at risk of getting traces of the neurotoxin mixed into the water, every time they open their taps.