Orthophosphate: What Does it Mean for the City of Hamilton’s Drinking Water System?
In an effort to reduce corrosion in the City of Hamilton’s water distribution system, orthophosphate was added to the drinking water in November.
Wondering why this new chemical was needed and what it means for those who consume it? Here are answers to common questions surrounding the addition of orthophosphate to our City’s water system.
Why was Orthophosphate Added to Hamilton’s Drinking Water?
Orthophosphate has been added to protect the City of Hamilton residents from the consumption of lead.
Scientific research shows that orthophosphate is successful at reducing lead levels in drinking water. The chemical adheres to pipes as a protective coating to control corrosion, especially on lead pipes.
Of the 20,000 lead pipes that are still located throughout Hamilton, the majority are in the lower city and on older parts on top of the Mountain. The City has replaced all lead water mains in the city.
What are the Health Effects of Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water?
There are health risks of consuming even a small amount of lead, which bioaccumulates in the body over time.
Children, infants and fetuses are particularly vulnerable since the ill side effects of lead occur at lower exposure levels at their young age. Studies show that even low amounts of lead in children can lead to many harmful side effects including damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, hearing and growth issues and impaired blood cell creation and functioning.
Health effects for adults include an increased risk of high blood pressure, reproductive problems and kidney damage.
Important to note is that bathing/showering in lead-contaminated water is safe for you and your children. Human skin doesn’t absorb lead in water.
How Safe is Orthophosphate?
Already found in humans’ bones and teeth, orthophosphorus is a form of phosphorus. Acting as an essential mineral for the repair and growth of body cells, low levels of orthophosphorus are necessary for our survival.
The chemical is added to Hamilton’s water supply in the form of food-grade phosphoric acid. Only a minimal amount of orthophosphate remains when it reaches your taps.
Why Not Replace the Old Lead Pipes Instead?
Since many private property owners do not want the expense of replacing the pipes, orthophosphate offers a more cost feasible option.
Although replacing lead pipes is quite costly at approximately $4,000, the City does offer a loan program.
Adding orthophosphate to Hamilton’s water supply isn’t inexpensive – one year’s cost is approximately $300,000. The construction and equipment costs associated with implementing orthophosphate is estimated at $4.5 million.
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