Residents should run their taps until cold before using their water. (Black Press file photo)

City of Prince Rupert says “water worse than Flint” data is misrepresentative

Investigative journalism project finds many Canadian cities with alarming levels of lead in water

Lead contamination in several cities across Canada has been found to be consistently higher than it ever was in Flint, Michigan, according to an investigation that tested drinking water in hundreds of homes and reviewed thousands more previously undisclosed results.

Prince Rupert is among the list with 84 per cent of the homes sampled having higher amounts of lead in the drinking water than is deemed safe by federal guideline standards.

The yearlong investigation was conducted by more than 120 journalists from nine universities, including the University of British Columbia, and 10 media organizations, who collected test results that properly measure exposure to lead in 11 cities across Canada.

According to the World Health Organization, “there is no level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects.” However, by Health Canada’s guidelines, the acceptable amounts of lead in drinking water is 5 parts per billion (ppb).

The data from the collaborative investigative project showed that Prince Rupert’s drinking water contained 14.1 ppb (with a median of 9.9. ppb) on average, while Flint’s water contained 10.5 ppb (median of 3.5 ppb).

The City of Prince Rupert is claiming that these results are inaccurate and do not give the whole picture.

READ MORE: Investigation: Lead in some Canadian water worse than Flint

“The data sets they used were all first flush tests and can be misrepresentative,” said Veronika Stewart, the city’s communication manager. “They don’t show you what the average consumption of lead is during the course of the day. So in reality in someone’s home, they are using the water and after the first flush clears the lead, levels drop below the maximum acceptable levels of concentration in most cases.”

A first flush is when the water is tested right after it is left to sit in the pipes overnight without letting it run before testing.

In August the city released information to the public reminding them to run their taps before drinking water, following a first flush test that found residential homes were above acceptable levels.

Ten out of 60 homes were found to have elevated levels in the water quality test conducted in conjunction with Northern Health.

Secondary testing is currently being done to test the water after flushing.

READ MORE: Elevated levels of lead found in homes after City of Prince Rupert tests first flushing

“We did first flush where there were people that were above which is what you would expect when the water’s been sitting. So now we are making sure once you do flush it is effective,” Stewart added.

Data from the investigative project showed that after a two-minute flush, Prince Rupert’s average ppb dropped to 2.8 (with a median of 2.3) while Flint’s average ppb remained higher with an extra minute of added flushing at 3.7 (although with a lower median of 0.5).

The city said the issue is from aged homes in Prince Rupert built before the 1990s which may still have lead pipes, and that there are no municipal lead service lines in the city.

The city expects that the new water treatment facility will help balance the pH levels in the water reducing the problem.

Residents who may have lead in their pipes should run the water until it is cold, indicating a flow of water that has not been sitting in the pipes.

READ MORE: City of Prince Rupert announces $22M for water treatment project

with files from Canadian Press


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
Jenna Cocullo 
Send Jenna email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATED- More wolf sightings – numerous encounters

Avoid attracting wolves with food sources and keep pets inside

Prince Rupert Fire Rescue explains BBQ blaze fire safety

Outdoor cooking safety needs fires extinguishers ready

Cloak-and-dagger ninja deliveries

Whining kids at home may be creating the need for wining moms at home

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Smithers woman awarded $55K in RCMP excessive force suit

Irene Joseph alleged false arrest and assault and battery related to a 2014 incident in Smithers

‘Paralyzed by fear’: B.C. woman details anxiety, grief at Italian relief hospital

Sheila Vicic spent two months in Italy as the country grappled with COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry given new name in B.C. First Nation ceremony: ‘one who is calm among us’

The provincial health officer was honoured in a May 22 ceremony at elementary school in Hazelton

CAMH survey looks at binge-drinking, financial anxiety during COVID

Alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism for those whose careers may have been sidelined due to the pandemic

Half of Canadians say governments are hiding something about COVID-19: poll

More than a third of people believe the virus was created in a lab

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Most Read