EPCOR has informed Sturgeon County that starting in early 2023, they will add orthophosphate to its water treatment process. EPCOR supplies the drinking water to Sturgeon County as part of the Regional Water Customer Group. This will apply to Sturgeon County utility customers and to water at the truck fill stations. Namao Ridge and Grandview Estates are not part of this program as they are on a community well system.
Sturgeon County facilities will be affected as well. Tap water at County administrative buildings will have orthophosphate in the water.
Orthophosphate is part of EPCOR’s Enhanced Lead Mitigation Program, introduced after Health Canada updated the guidelines for lead in drinking water. In March 2019, Health Canada reduced the maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) for lead in drinking water. This new MAC is applied to water samples taken at the tap, whereas previously it applied to samples taken and tested as the water left the treatment plant or in the distribution system.
Homes built in the 1950s and 1960s usually have lead plumbing. Sturgeon County has done testing as part of Provincial regulatory requirements and hasn’t been able to detect lead in County water. In Alberta, drinking water facility owners and operators must conduct assessments of lead hazards and develop lead management plans. Homeowners on a well system are required to submit water samples to the province for testing. Lead would be identified in these tests. EPCOR has produced a video called How to Check for a Lead Service Line on their YouTube channel for those who are not sure if their home has lead plumbing.
While there isn’t lead in the water when it leaves EPCOR’s treatment plant, lead can get into the drinking water through lead pipes and other household plumbing fixtures. The lead inhibitor (orthophosphate) forms a protective coating inside water lines, and on fixtures which helps prevent lead from releasing into the water that flows through the pipes.
EPCOR advises that orthophosphate is tasteless, odourless, and safe. Phosphate is found naturally in foods like bread, cheese, fruits, and nuts. It’s also a common additive in beverages. It has been approved for use by Alberta Health.
To learn more about the orthophosphate additive, visit EPCOR’s website.