Charlottetown working hard to avoid what happened in Flint, Michigan

Dave Stewart
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Charlottetown City Hall

The City of Charlottetown says it has taken precautions to ensure what happened in Michigan doesn’t happen here.

Flint, Mich., switched from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River in 2014 to save money.

State officials, in what they concede was an error, didn’t order Flint officials to treat the water with anti-corrosive chemicals. That caused lead to leach from aging pipes into some homes. If consumed, lead can cause developmental delays and learning disabilities.

Coun. Eddie Rice, chairman of Charlottetown’s water and sewer utility committee, said lead service piping was used throughout North America and isn’t unusual for municipalities to be dealing with.

Rice told The Guardian that less than 20 per cent of the original lead service pipes are still in use.

“That, in itself, is a good sign, not a perfect sign,’’ Rice said. “Our drinking water exceeds Health Canada standards. (Lead) pipes are used throughout North America, it’s a problem and an issue everywhere.’’

Rice said what bodes well for Charlottetown’s water system is that it has what is called ‘hard water’, which is water that has a high mineral content, not an uncommon issue.

“It coats our pipes and keeps us in a neutral situation and those are all positive things.’’

Craig Walker, manager of the utility, said the city doesn’t see a lot of corrosion on the interior of its water lines despite the fact that it is old.

“We have hard water in Charlottetown, which actually helps because it forms a mineral buildup, serving as a bit of a barrier or lining in our pipes,’’ Walker said. “This inhibits corrosion and cuts down on potential leaching from the pipes.’’

As an added precaution, the city monitors water quality and conducts tests regularly.

Rice is constantly bringing up the need to rehabiliate the system, that big dollars are needed. Most municipalities are faced with aging pipes and have turned to programs like Build Canada Fund to pay for it.

Rice said the city’s infrastructure is old and “we’re going to continue to see watermain breaks and other issues until our aging infrastructure is replaced, something that is going to have to become our primary focus once the sewer separation and well field project are complete.’’

The city has made progress in its water system replacement program since it began in 2001, which includes lead service pipe replacement. There are roughly 10,000 service pipe connections from the city’s watermains to customer properties. Less than 20 per cent are the original lead servicing pipes.

The lead servicing remains only in some of the downtown system, infrastructure that was built prior to 1952. It is being removed from the distribution system as watermains are replaced, leaks are detected and corrected, new building construction takes place or infrastructure renewal occurs.

Rice said he’ll be pushing hard for federal dollars.

“It needs to happen and I’m going to be driving that home. We have to get federal monies and get at rehabilitation.’’

With files from The Associated Press



Organizations: Health Canada, Build Canada Fund, The Associated Press

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Flint, Michigan, North America Michigan Detroit Flint River

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Recent comments

  • clifford the ditch in-filler
    March 09, 2016 - 12:04

    So the CITY has a potential public safety issue (lead water mains and service pipes), yet we don't make replacing them a priority. Instead we have the mayor spending valuable taxpayer money on silly political projects like filling in ditches or building a mega replacement for a perfectly good 25 year old civic centre (that has already been paid for). It would appear that priorities in the mayor's office are out to lunch.

    • This Person
      March 09, 2016 - 15:58

      The lead isn't a problem since it's coated in a layer of oxide or mineral deposits and I beleive it's only the pipe solder not the entire pipe. If something acidic got into the water it may dissolve that oxide layer but it would take a long time. Even asbestos is fine until people start poking at it causing it to float through the air. Plastic pipes are by no means perfect they can break down and leach various parts of the compound it's made of into the water. Water is the best solvent known so whatever you use for a pipe you can never be sure of the water being 100% pure except maybe if you use stainless steel pipes.

  • Summerside Resident
    March 08, 2016 - 19:13

    Summerside has the same lead piping still in streets throughout the City. The CAO and senior management keep this quiet. I would like to see just how much lead pipes are still going into homes and what effect does lead pipe have to do with cancer. The public deserves this infrmation to be made public. As far as I know when sidewalks are replaced all lead piping is replaced with copper pipes from the street onto the residences. What about the other side of the streets, they still have lead pipes. Investng taxpayers money into safety instead of taking trips make be wise to look into

  • wayne k
    March 08, 2016 - 18:46

    Wouldn't removing the dangerous for health Fluoride reduce corrosion? [just a thought] Dam off a paved section of Airport runway [or make a reservoir]to collect Rainwater???... the groundwater is less pristine what with agri-chemicals and Dandelion poisons