Lead Pipe Replacement Program


In recent years the city of Toronto has found alarming levels of lead in their drinking water. This discovery has triggered a city wide replacement program for all drinking supply pipelines. Prior to 1950 the city’s pipelines were constructed with lead pipes. Not all pipes were lead; for example multi-dwelling structures like apartment buildings did not use lead pipes. It was common enough though that the city felt it had to be corrected.

The city of Toronto began replacing the lead pipelines in the 2010s. In the beginning the households wanting the up-dated pipes had to prove they had a lead issue with their drinking water. Now in 2014 that isn’t necessary for a homeowner to receive a higher priority for complying with the new building codes. The lead testing was meant to find what parts of the city needed it the most. With most of these areas serviced lead testing is simply a formality.

City contractors were hired to replace all the old lead lines from the city’s water system. Homeowners in these effected homes were asked to replace their lead pipes on their side of the property line. The homeowner could apply for the city contractors to do the work or hire their own at their expense. If an outside party was hired there had to be a paper trail to prove the work did actually take place. It was to be included with an application form the city required. The new mandatory code for water pipes included:

  • Pipes that were leaking or damaged must be replaced.
  • Pipes that were not of a standard city specified size were to be replaced.
  • Pipes that serviced multiple homes had to be replaced.
  • Pipes made of lead or galvanized steel had to be replaced.

The city had their own requirements for replacement and every home had to follow those requirements. For those who wished to hire their own contractor many local contractors were available for the work. Two main forms of pipe replacement were done to keep a home up to code.

  • Evacuation
  • Trenchless

Evacuation pipe replacement was the city’s preferred method. The homeowner’s property was dug into to replace the old lead pipes.

The newer technology of trenchless pipe replacement was also considered. Trenchless pipe replacement involved technicians inserting a resin material in the old pipes and essentially creating a new pipe using the old as a template.

Along with the replacement of pipes the city offered a free water filter for the homes waiting for replacement. Since the project was projected to be carried out over a handful of years a rebate program was offered to households meeting certain criteria.

  • Home to a child 6 years old or less
  • Home to an expectant mother
  • Single family dwelling
  • Have an income of $50,000 or less a year

Applicants that met these criteria would receive a $100 credit on their water bill. This only applied once a year and only until the work was completed. This rebate was also available to those who purchased the filters for their property and tenants who lived on the property.

The city of Toronto has made several attempts to improve the safety of their drinking water. A new set of building codes and a city wide replacement program have made residents aware of the potential health risk old pipes can cause. The city requires that the homeowner up-grade their system; however the city has tried to make the transition as smooth as possible and hopeful the effort will show in the health of Toronto’s citizens.