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Lead service pipes in Durham Region

If you live in a house built before the mid-1950s, your water service connection (pipe) could be made of lead. The water service pipe enters your home through the wall or floor in your basement and is connected to your water meter. Scientific research and regulatory reviews have shown that lead exposure can be harmful to human health.

The Regional Municipality of Durham, Works Department is working to replace any Region-owned lead service pipes with copper pipes. The Region also strongly encourages property owners to replace the lead service pipe on private property, as research has shown that replacing only a portion of lead service pipes may result in increased lead exposure.

Image #1

Diagram describing where the boudary lines are in the pipes

How to identify lead service pipes and plumbing

Service pipes are typically made of copper, however, homes built before the mid-1950s may have lead pipes. Lead service pipes are characterized as a soft, non-magnetic metal that is silver/grey in colour. Copper pipe is bronze in colour, similar to a penny.

Lead pipe
Lead pipe

Copper pipe
Copper pipe

One way to easily identify whether a pipe is made from lead or copper is to carefully scratch the pipe with a key or coin. If the pipe is made of lead, the area you've scratched will turn a bright silver color. Contact a licensed plumber to verify any suspected lead plumbing in your home.

If a licensed plumber has confirmed that a lead service pipe is installed on your property, please contact the Regional Municipality of Durham Works Department, Technical Support Division at (905) 668-7711 extension 3488. Staff may arrange to collect a water sample for lead analysis, at no charge to the property owner.

What do I do if my water service pipe is made of lead?

The Region of Durham recommends complete replacement of your service pipe. This is the most effective way to address lead exposure concerns in your drinking water. If a licensed plumber has confirmed you have a lead service pipe, please contact the Regional Municipality of Durham Works Department, Technical Support Division at (905) 668-7711 extension 3488.

Until water service pipes are replaced on both the private and Regional side (see image #1), you can reduce or minimize your exposure to lead by:

  • Consider using a household water filter. As per Health Canada's recommendation, make sure the filter is certified to NSF 053 International Standards for the removal of lead.
  • Periodically flush your plumbing if the water has not been used for extended periods of time (e.g. a few hours, or overnight). To do this, turn the cold tap on and let it run for five minutes or until the water temperature gets colder.
  • You can conserve water by using a pitcher to store drinking water collected after flushing the pipes in your refrigerator rather than flushing the pipes many times a day. Other activities such as showering and flushing toilets can minimize the need to flush taps.
  • Periodically remove and clean the aerator on your tap after flushing, as lead particles and sediment can build up in the screen.
  • Use only cold, flushed water for drinking and cooking. Never use hot water from the tap for drinking, cooking, making baby formula, etc. as heated water may contain higher lead levels. Boiling water does not remove lead.

What are the health risks associated with lead exposure?

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about lead in drinking water and the potential health hazards and risks associated with exposure to lead. For more information on the health risks associated with lead in drinking water refer to the link below:

Durham Region water quality

The Municipal water supply is essentially lead-free in Durham Region. However, lead can enter drinking water by travelling through a lead water service pipe. The Regional Municipality of Durham has participated in the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change's mandatory lead testing program (legislated by Ontario Regulation 170/03) since the program started in 2008. The mandatory lead testing program provides lead samples to a specified number of residential, non-residential and distribution system locations in each drinking water system.

Every drinking water system in Durham has met the criteria of not more than 10 percent of samples exceeding the maximum acceptable concentration of 10 micrograms per litre for reduced sampling in Ontario Regulation 170/03. Due to the natural physical and chemical properties such as hardness, pH, langelier index and alkalinity, municipal drinking water is not corrosive and the Region of Durham's drinking water systems do not require corrosion control plans. For more information:

Learn more about the municipal water supply system in Durham Region: