June 14, 2024
20,000 Hamilton homes have toxic lead pipes carrying water to taps. The city says it will take 40 years to fix the system
There’s no safe level of exposure to lead.
There’s no safe level of exposure to lead.

Every week, Lisa Svadjian and her husband lug plastic jugs of water into their renovated century home in Hamilton’s sought-after St. Clair neighbourhood.

The family drinks bottled water since a city worker told them a couple of years ago that the pipe leading to their house is made of lead.

The revelation irritated Svadjian.

“It’s like we’re camping,” she remembered thinking. “This is ridiculous, to have to drink from bottled jugs of water, as if you don’t have fresh water coming through your house.”

The Svadjians live in one of about 20,000 Hamilton homes with toxic lead pipes carrying water to their taps. They know kids are especially vulnerable to lead, but don’t know the exact level of risk for their four- and six-year-old girls. Instead of saving up thousands of dollars to hire a contractor to dig up and replace their pipes, they’ve focused on other priorities with fixing up their old house. In the meantime, they drink bottled water, which they admit is a hassle and a waste as the four-litre jugs pile up in their recycling bins every week.

Hamilton officials acknowledge the health dangers of drinking water from lead pipes but say overhauling the system will take up to 40 years. Like their counterparts in other Canadian cities, they urge homeowners with lead pipes to spend thousands of dollars on removal, or to rely on filters, or to flush the taps in the morning to lower the risks, or to use bottled water.

Meanwhile, many Hamilton homeowners like the Svadjians are unsure how serious the problem is. They’re faced with an invisible problem not of their making as they try to balance the costs of raising kids and dealing with any number of other old-house headaches that come up.


See Also:

(1) More than half of Nova Scotians on wells are at risk of having lead in their water