The distribution of safe, reliable drinking water is a core service provided to residents and businesses in Lacombe, and is mandated through the City’s Utility Bylaw.
Lacombe draws its water from the City of Red Deer Treatment Plant via a regional water line connecting Blackfalds, Lacombe and Ponoka. The water quality is monitored daily at various stages of treatment, as well as in the distribution system, to ensure that all water quality parameters meet and exceed the acceptable limits as outlined by the federal and provincial governments.
In Lacombe, City staff has conducted lead testing twice a year since 2010 by drawing water samples at the City’s three pump houses and within their respective zones. Tests results indicate Lacombe’s drinking water is of excellent quality, with contaminant levels significantly under the federally mandated maximum allowable concentrations.
Recently, Health Canada cut the guideline for acceptable levels of lead in drinking water in half – from 10 parts per billion to five parts per billion. There is an additional requirement to change the location of where water samples are to be taken: it now focuses on water at the customer’s tap.
Health Canada has also introduced guidelines for acceptable levels of manganese in Lacombe’s water distribution system, with a maximum allowable concentration of 0.12 mg/L, and an aesthetic objective of 0.02 mg/L. When manganese is found above the aesthetic 0.02 mg/L, the water becomes discolored (pink); however, it is still safe to drink.
In response, the City is developing new practices for its water management program in order to achieve compliance with the new standards.
Monitoring for lead will require water sampling at the tap within buildings, as lead concentrations can be affected by plumbing fixtures and building service lines, especially in older homes.
Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) recently provided municipalities with guidance on water sampling protocols for lead (at the tap) and manganese (in the distribution system and source water). The City’s utility operators are in the process of reviewing these guidelines.
The City of Lacombe will have five years to develop and begin implementation of an enhanced lead management program for its water distribution system. The City will be required to submit plans for meeting the maximum allowable concentration for lead (at the tap) and manganese (in the distribution system) as part of its annual drinking water system report to AEP.
Work to characterize the lead and manganese risks in the City’s distribution system will begin in 2020, with $5,000 of new funding, already included in the 2020 operating budget, to cover additional laboratory testing costs. The next step will be to develop mitigation plans for any areas that are at risk of exceeding the new limits.
-Submitted by the City of Lacombe