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Lead Pipe Replacement Program

Living in a home built before 1955?

Homes potentially impacted by a lead water service pipe are typically those built before 1955.

The Lead Pipe Replacement Program provides support to eligible residents for either the partial or full replacement of a home’s lead water service pipe.

A water service pipe connects a building to the City’s municipal water supply. Property owners are responsible for the pipe from their home to the water shut-off valve (referred to as the private portion) and the City owns and maintains the pipe from the water shut-off valve to the watermain (referred to as the public portion).

Post-1955 homes connected to older watermains

In limited instances, properties built after 1955 may be connected to an older watermain. In this situation, while your private water service pipe likely does not contain lead, the public portion of the water service pipe may contain lead.

To ensure your water service pipe is correctly assessed, we recommend that you contact info-water@ottawa.ca to inquire about the age of the watermain or request a drinking water quality test.

How can I tell if I have a lead service pipe?

The best way to determine if your water service pipe is lead or copper is to scratch the service pipe with sandpaper to expose bare metal. The only visible portion of the water service pipe is located between your basement’s concrete floor and the water meter.

Water meter with a lead service pipe

Lead and copper pipes
Lead pipes (as shown on the left) are dull grey in colour and are easily scratched by a hard object. Copper pipes (as shown on the right) are red-brown and corroded portions may show a green deposit.

Apply for a rebate for a partial (private-only) replacement

A rebate of up to $1,000 – approximately 20% of the pipe replacement cost – is available to property owners with a partial (private-only) lead water service pipe.

The rebate addresses trenching and replacement costs, where the public portion of the water service pipe has been:

  • Replaced; or
  • Scheduled to be replaced within the next 2 years.

The cost of the private portion varies based on the length of the private lead water service pipe. The rebate does not address removal and replacement of items such as gardens, landscaping, decks, porches or interior work and finishes.

Rebate eligibility criteria

To be eligible for a rebate for partial (private-only) replacement of a lead water service pipe, all of the following criteria must be met:

  • The public (City-owned) portion of the water service pipe must not be made of lead.
  • The private portion of the water service pipe must be made of lead.
  • The owner of the property must apply.
  • The property owner must provide all documentation requested as part of the application.
  • The private water service pipe replacement must have been completed on or after September 25, 2019.

Steps to apply for a partial (private-only) replacement

Step 1 – Determine if the private portion of the water service pipe is made of lead

To determine if the private water service pipe is made of lead, locate the visible portion of the water service pipe located between the basement’s concrete floor and the water meter.

Lead and copper pipes
Lead pipes (as shown on the left) are dull grey in colour and are easily scratched by a hard object. Copper pipes (as shown on the right) are red-brown and corroded portions may show a green deposit.

Step 2 – Determine if the public portion of the water service pipe is made of lead

After determining if the private water service pipe is made of lead, please contact the City (info-water@ottawa.ca) to determine if the public portion of the water service pipe is made of lead.

  • If the full (public and private) water service pipe is made of lead and must be replaced, the property owner may be eligible to replace the private portion while the City replaces its portion.
  • If the public portion is made of copper and the private portion is made of lead, the property owner may continue with replacing the private portion of the water service pipe, following the steps indicated below.
  • If both the private and public portions are made of copper, you are at little to no risk of exposure to lead through drinking water and are not eligible for the Lead Pipe Replacement Program.

Step 3 – Request a water quality test (optional)

If your water service pipe is made of lead, you may request a water quality test to determine the concentration of lead in your tap water.

If testing confirms a concentration of lead equal to or exceeding Health Canada’s guideline of 5 ppb, you will be provided with a reusable pitcher and approximately a one-year supply of NSF-53 water filters certified to remove lead from drinking water to use while you await replacement of the lead water service pipe.

Step 4 – Complete the replacement of the water service pipe

  • Before replacement, contact one or more contractors for quotes for the proposed work. After choosing a contractor:
    • Obtain a Building Permit, which is required prior to construction or renovation under the Building Code Act. Failure to obtain a Building Permit for construction may result in enforcement.
    • Contact Ontario One Call to request utility locates.
    • Complete preparatory work for the removal or salvage of interior work and finishes, furniture and fixtures, gardens, landscaping, decks, fences and porches.
    • Call 3-1-1 to arrange a water turn-off.
  • During replacement, oversee the contractor’s work and address any issues or concerns.
  • After replacement:
    • Contact the City to arrange a Building Permit inspection.
    • Contact the City to arrange a water turn-on.
    • Complete reinstatement work, including reinstallation of interior work and finishes, furniture and fixtures, gardens, landscaping, decks, fences and porches.
    • Pay the contractor.

Step 5 – Collect required documentation and apply for a rebate

Before making application, gather the required documentation:

  • Copy of Building Permit, including receipt.
  • Copy of Building Permit Final Inspection Report.
  • Proof of ownership (copy of deed, land transfer or property tax bill).
  • Itemized invoice for completed work, which must specify the original water service pipe material and length of water service pipe replaced.

Apply for a rebate for partial (private-only) replacement

Determine eligibility for full (private and public) replacement

The Lead Pipe Replacement Program provides support to eligible residents for the replacement of their private lead water service pipe at the same time that the City replaces its portion.

This support includes:

  • Project coordination: City staff will provide administration of the property owner’s work from start to finish through a Construction Agreement.
  • Loan availability: The property owner is given the option to defer their portion of the replacement cost.

Program eligibility criteria

The following criteria is used to determine whether a property owner qualifies for the program:

  • The full water service (private and public portions) must be made of lead.
  • The property owner must apply.
  • The property owner must agree to pay for the private portion of the service.

If your street is scheduled for watermain replacement within the next two years, replacement of the private portion of the water service pipe will be eligible for a rebate for partial (private-only) replacement.

Steps to participate in a full (private and public) replacement

 Step 1 – Complete an eligibility assessment

Eligibility assessment form

Please note: Families with children under the age of six or those expecting children are given priority for a water service replacement through the Lead Pipe Replacement Program.

Step 02 – Eligibility review

The City reviews construction history, watermain data and property information related to the service address to determine the likelihood that the City portion of the water service pipe is made from lead. The City will contact you by phone to advise you of your eligibility for the program.

Step 3 - Site visit

Pending initial approval of your program eligibility, City staff will contact you to confirm a date and time for an initial site visit. During this visit, staff will attempt to determine whether your private water service pipe is made of lead through visual inspection and other non-intrusive methods.

Please note: City representatives and approved contractors will display photo identification from the City of Ottawa or their respective companies. The City will not schedule a site visit or arrange any work without your prior authorization.

  • If your private water service is not made of lead, no further work is required, and your application will be closed.
  • If your private water service pipe material cannot be confirmed by staff, you as the homeowner can arrange for additional investigations to verify the material. Additional investigations are undertaken at the homeowner’s sole expense (i.e. hydro-excavation and removal of soil in a small area immediately above the water service post).
    • You will also be directed to schedule a water quality test online or by calling 3-1-1 to help in determining the presence of a lead water service pipe on your property.
  • If the water service pipe is made of lead, staff will collect information and take photos of both the interior and the exterior of your home. Interior photos will be limited to the area surrounding your water meter and the location where your private water service pipe enters the home.

Step 4 - CCTV or video inspection (optional)

If it is verified that your private water service pipe is made of lead, City staff may schedule a closed-circuit television video (CCTV) inspection of your sanitary sewer service pipe. The CCTV inspection will identify any deficiencies, such as a blockage or damage, that could interfere with the operation of your sewer lateral pipe, connecting your home to the City’s sewer main. In most cases, both sewer and water service pipes are located in the same area. If repairs are needed, it is typically more economical and less disruptive to replace both services pipes at the same time.

Cost of the CCTV or video inspection

If you proceed with either the water or sewer pipe replacement work, the City will cover the cost of the CCTV or video inspection. However, if you do not proceed with the water or sewer replacement work or if you withdraw from the program prior to completing the replacement work, you will be invoiced for the cost of any work completed plus the program fee.

Step 5 – Construction Agreement

City staff will review a Construction Agreement with you during the site visit. The Construction Agreement describes the responsibilities of both the City and the homeowner. It also provides the approximate replacement cost and options for payment.

The Construction Agreement must be signed and returned to the City within two (2) weeks of the site visit for the work to proceed. If not received within the two (2) weeks, the application will be closed.

Please note: The Lead Pipe Replacement Program only covers the cost of the excavation and replacement of your private water service. Detailed information about the items which are not included is provided in the Construction Agreement.

Step 6 – Hiring a contractor

During the initial site visit, a list of approved contractors will be provided by the City. The homeowner should contact one or more approved contractors to obtain a quote and choose a contractor for the work. The cost of the private portion varies based on the length of the private lead water service pipe.

Once the signed Construction Agreement has been received, City staff will hire the selected contractor to complete the water and/or sanitary sewer service replacement work. Staff will inform you of the anticipated start and completion dates for this work.

Step 7 - Preparation for construction (utility locates)

Prior the installation work, utility locates will be completed to identify utility services on your property. Paint or flags may be used by the various utilities (hydro, gas, cable and phone) to mark these locations.

Step 8 - Construction

On the previously agreed upon date, the contractor will initiate the installation of the water and/or sanitary sewer service pipe. City staff will supervise the work; however, it is suggested that the homeowner be onsite and available during the work. If the homeowner has opted to pay the contractor directly, the City does not supervise the work.

Step 9 - After construction

Once complete, City staff will conduct a site visit and may meet with you. As per the Construction Agreement, you will then be invoiced for the completed work and the applicable program fees.

Warranty

Through the City’s Standing Offer, the contractor provides a one (1) year warranty to the homeowner for the work completed under the Construction Agreement.

What is the typical cost of replacement for a private water service pipe?

The replacement cost for the private portion of a water service pipe will depend on the length and depth of the private lead water service pipe.

Is preparatory work included as part of the program?

No. The property owner can complete the preparatory work themselves or make separate arrangements with a contractor to complete the work. This work is to be completed prior to the replacement of the water service pipe.

Preparatory work cannot be included in the loan amount and must be billed separately from the water service replacement work.

Preparatory work includes the removal of gardens, landscaping and special finishes, including the removal of items placed by the homeowner or previous homeowner(s) on public property.

How is reinstatement work addressed?

On private property, the property owner can complete the reinstatement work themselves or make separate arrangements with a contractor.

The City will reinstate public property with topsoil, sod, gravel and asphalt only. The reinstatement of special finishes may not be included.

Reinstatement work cannot be included in the loan amount and must be billed separately from the water service replacement work.

Payment options

The following payment options are available:

  • Payment in full, payable to the Contractor directly;
  • Payment in full, payable to the City of Ottawa within 30 days of the date of the invoice;
  • Loan less than or equal to $5,000: Deferred payment over five (5) years, added to your property tax bill and subject to interest charges;
  • Loan greater than $5,000: Deferred payment over five (5) years, added to your property tax bill and subject to interest charges;
  • Loan greater than $5,000: Deferred payment over ten (10) years added to your property tax bill and subject to interest charges.

To finance the work through the City and have payment added to your property tax bill, interest will be charged at the rate of the City's debenture at the time of the debenture issuance. The exact rate will only be known a few weeks after the work is completed. The City's debenture rate is usually slightly higher than personal loan rates at a typical financial institution.

Should I also replace my sewer pipe?

If it is verified that your private water service pipe is made of lead, City staff may schedule a closed-circuit television video (CCTV) inspection of your sanitary sewer service pipe. The CCTV inspection will identify any deficiencies, such as a blockage or damage, that could interfere with the operation of your sewer lateral pipe, connecting your home to the City’s sewer main. In most cases, both sewer and water service pipes are located in the same area. If repairs are needed, it is typically more economical and less disruptive to replace both services pipes at the same time.

Can I withdraw from the program?

You may withdraw from the program at any time. There is no charge for the initial site visit for water service pipe inspection. If you withdraw after signing an agreement, you will be invoiced for the cost of any work completed on your property, plus the applicable program fees.

I already applied for the program. When will I be contacted for an appointment?

Property owners eligible for replacement will receive a phone call from the City prior to construction season, to provide a date when the water service pipe will be replaced. Scheduling will depend on priority for replacement and the date of application.

I applied for the program last year, but I have not received any follow-up. Should I re-apply for the program?

No. Your application will remain on file and there is no need to reapply. If you have questions regarding your application, please contact the City (info-water@ottawa.ca).

Request to have your home’s drinking water tested for lead

NOTE: To ensure the completion of lead sampling during the COVID-19 response, water quality testing for lead has resumed using a modified procedure to avoid the need for in-home visits. Your request will be added to a sampling queue and you will be contacted when sampling in your area is going to take place. All other in-home water quality testing services continue to be suspended until further notice. Requestors will be contacted to discuss their concerns. If a visit is required, the request will be held and the requestor will be contacted when in-home water quality testing services resume.

If you’re concerned about the potential presence of lead in your tap water, you can request a water quality test.

Drinking water provided by the City of Ottawa is lead-free. However, trace amounts of lead can dissolve into drinking water during contact with your home’s lead pipes (including your water service pipe), brass fixtures, and lead solder. This may impact the safety of your tap water.

Ottawa residents who live in homes built after 1955 are at little or no risk of lead exposure through tap water. In limited instances, homes built after 1955 may be impacted if connected to an older watermain.

For more information on keeping your tap water lead-free, please consult our frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Request to have your home’s drinking water tested for lead. 

Availability of NSF-53 certified water filter kits

The City will offer impacted residents a reusable pitcher and approximately a one-year supply of NSF-53 water filters certified to remove lead from your tap water while you await replacement of your lead water service pipe.

To qualify, you must meet one of the following criteria:

Keeping your tap water lead-free

Is there lead in Ottawa's drinking water supply?

Drinking water supplied by the City is lead-free. However, trace amounts of lead can dissolve into drinking water during contact with your home’s lead pipes (including your water service pipe), brass fixtures, and lead solder. This may impact the safety of your tap water.

In most cases, lead concentrations in Ottawa’s tap water are well below the drinking water standard of 10 ppb (parts per billion), as established by the Province of Ontario. Typical concentrations are as follows:

  • 0 ppb leaving Ottawa’s water treatment plants
  • Less than 1 ppb for tap water in the majority of Ottawa homes (85%)
  • 1-5 ppb in older homes with lead water service pipes

In some homes, the lead concentration can be higher than 10 ppb, usually due to the length of the water service pipe connected to the home.

Please note: Due to increasing concerns about negative health effects in children, Health Canada has established a new maximum allowable concentration for lead in drinking water of 5 ppb. The Province of Ontario is currently reviewing its maximum allowable concentration of 10 ppb and will be implementing a revised Ontario Drinking Water Standard, although the timeline has not been determined.

What is a water service pipe?

A water service pipe connects a home or building to the City’s water supply. The City owns and maintains the portion of pipe running from the water main to the property line, while property owners are responsible for the portion running from the property line to the home or building.

Who is impacted by lead in drinking water?

Approximately 15% of homes in Ottawa were originally constructed with water service pipes made of lead. Lead pipes were used in home construction up until the 1950s. After that, water service pipes were made of copper. If the original lead water service pipe has not been replaced there is the potential for small amounts of lead to dissolve into household tap water.

Ottawa residents who live in homes built after 1955, as well as commercial and multi-residential properties are at little or no risk of lead exposure through tap water.

Post-1955 homes connected to older watermains

In limited instances, properties built after 1955 may be connected to an older watermain. In this situation, while your private water service pipe (from the property line to your home) likely does not contain lead, the City (public) portion of the water service pipe (from the City’s watermain to your property line) may contain lead.

To ensure your water service pipe is correctly assessed, we recommend that you call 3-1-1 to inquire about the age of the watermain.

How do I know if I have a lead water service pipe?

The best way to determine if your water service pipe is lead or copper is to scratch the service pipe with sandpaper to expose bare metal. The only visible portion of the water service pipe is located between your basement’s concrete floor and the water meter. Lead pipes are dull grey in colour and are easily scratched by a hard object. Copper pipes are red-brown and corroded portions may show a green deposit.

What is the current limit for lead in drinking water?

Due to increasing concerns about negative health effects in children, Health Canada has established a new maximum allowable concentration for lead in drinking water of 5 parts per billion (ppb). The Province of Ontario is currently reviewing its maximum allowable concentration of 10 ppb and will be implementing a revised Ontario Drinking Water Standard, although the timeline has not been determined.

The maximum allowable concentration of lead in drinking water aims to protect infants, young children and children in-utero who are most at risk of exposure to lead.

Should I be concerned about exposure to lead in drinking water?

Exposure to small amounts of lead is especially harmful for pregnant women and can have harmful effects on a child’s development.

Lead can be present in many environmental sources including soil, dust, food, air, and drinking water. Some household products such as jewellery, crystal, and ceramic pottery can also contain lead. Household dust and dirt often represent the greatest lead exposure for young children.

Although the lead contribution from tap water is generally low, it can be significant in some homes with lead water service pipes.

Visit Health Canada's website for more information on lead and human health, or contact Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 (TTY: 613-580-9656), or by email at healthsante@ottawa.ca.

Is lead a concern in my children’s school or child care centre?

All schools, private schools and child care centres in Ontario are required to flush plumbing regularly, test water for lead annually, and take immediate action if levels exceed the Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standard of 10 ppb. As of July 2017, every drinking water fountain and any tap that provides drinking water or is used to prepare food or drink for children under 18 must be sampled for lead.

Ottawa Public Health ensures that schools, private schools and child care centres resolve lead-related drinking water issues and therefore comply with Ontario Drinking Water Standards. More information is available from the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MECP).

Who is responsible for replacing water service pipes?

The water service pipe that connects to your home is composed of two portions: a public portion owned by the City from the municipal water main to the property line, and a privately-owned portion from the property line to the house. When a water main is replaced or upgraded, the City replaces the public portion of the lead service pipe with copper. Unless the homeowner pays to have their portion of the water service pipe replaced, it will remain as lead.

Is there assistance available to replace a lead water service pipe?

Property owners are encouraged to take advantage of the Lead Pipe Replacement Program.

Are commercial and multi-residential properties impacted?

No. Lead has never been used for larger diameter pipes required for connections to larger buildings, schools, or institutions. Stronger materials such as copper, iron, or plastic are used to supply water to these buildings.

What is the City of Ottawa doing to reduce the risk of exposure to lead?

The City takes the following actions to mitigate the risk of exposure to lead in tap water:

  • The City adjusts the water supply pH to 9.2 – 9.4 to minimize the amount of lead and other metals that can dissolve into tap water.
  • The City routinely monitors tap water lead concentrations in older homes through an extensive water sampling and testing program.
  • Although Ottawa’s water supply meets regulatory standards for lead in drinking water, City staff are evaluating alternative treatment options and strategies to further reduce lead in tap water.
  • The City will test your tap water for lead, free of charge. Call 3-1-1 for this service.

I live in a home with lead plumbing. What should I do to reduce the lead in my tap water?

To minimize lead exposure from tap water, residents are encouraged to:

  • Run their tap for approximately 2 minutes to flush stagnant water sitting in the service pipe prior to cooking or drinking. This can greatly reduce lead concentrations in your tap water. 
    • The cost of water is approximately 2 cents for a two-minute tap flushing.
    • Keep a fresh jug of flushed tap water in the refrigerator for use during the day. Ensure the jug or container itself is lead-free.
  • Request to have your home’s drinking water tested for lead.
  • Use a tap or pitcher-style filter to remove lead from tap water when used for drinking and cooking. Many water filters will sufficiently remove lead from tap water, but the City recommends a filter certified to the NSF/ANSI 53 standard for lead removal. Residents can complete an online search for an NSF-certified filter.
    • Tap faucets and fixtures used for drinking water should be certified to the NSF/ANSI 372 standard as lead-free.
  • Take advantage of the Lead Pipe Replacement Program to help with the replacement of a lead water service pipe.

How can I have my tap water tested for lead?

If you’re concerned about the potential presence of lead in your tap water, you can request a water quality test.

Will my home water filter remove lead from drinking water?

Most pitcher-style filters will reduce lead levels in your tap water to safe levels; however, it is recommended that the filter unit be certified to the NSF/ANSI 53 standard for the removal of lead. This information can be found on the label. You can complete an online search for an NSF-approved filter. It is important to change the filter cartridges as per manufacturer’s recommendations. The use of a reverse osmosis treatment system will remove lead completely.

Will boiling water remove the lead?

No. Boiling your water does not remove lead. If boiled, the lead concentration of the water can actually increase slightly as the water evaporates.

What are other potential sources of lead in my drinking?

Lead may be present in solder used to join copper pipes as well as in brass used in the faucets and plumbing fixtures in your home. However, lead contributions from brass and lead solder are typically quite low (in the range of 1 ppb or less).

If I have a lead water service pipe, is it safe to wash dishes, clothing and shower?

Yes. Residue on clothing and dishes will not impact your health. Your skin will not absorb lead through bathing or showering. 

Is bottled water lead-free?

Bottled water comes from various sources and is subject to inspection by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency under the Food and Drugs Act. Generally, most brands of bottled water have low or non-detectable concentrations of lead. The lead concentration is typically displayed on the bottle. Specific questions and concerns should be addressed to the company directly.

Will lead in tap water affect my pet?

Lead poisoning in cats and dogs is extremely uncommon, particularly from water. Pets can be harmed by high levels of lead exposure from other sources, most commonly dust from lead paint during household renovations, or hobby-related materials that use lead, such as fishing tackle, stained glass or ceramics. If you are concerned about your pet’s health, contact your veterinarian for more information.

Who do I call if I have questions or concerns about my water quality?

Call 3-1-1 if you require additional information or have questions about keeping your tap water lead-free.