Why replace lead service lines?

Last updated March 31, 2023
Reading time: 2 min

Some buildings with eight dwellings or fewer that were built before 1970 have water service lines. Lead could dissolve into the water, which could impact people’s health if they drink it. This is why the city is replacing lead service lines between May and October.

Public and private portions

Montréal has excellent drinking water quality. However, when it comes into contact with lead plumbing, lead can dissolve into the water. The best way to reduce the exposure to lead in the water is to replace water service lines that are made of lead.

Work must be done on both the public portion (which belongs to the city) and the private portion (which belongs to the property owner).

When will lead service lines be replaced?

The city is replacing lead service lines at the same time as other work requiring excavations, such as waterworks repairs.

If, when we perform certain work, the private portion of the service line (the part that belongs to the owner) is still made of lead, it will be replaced at the same time as the public portion by the city’s contractor, in accordance with article 58 du By-law concerning connections to the waterworks and sewer systems and storm water management (20-030) (In french). Some exceptions may apply. Affected owners will be contacted.

All owners with lead service lines will be contacted to inform them of their obligations as well as planned work.

Did you know?

In 2021, the city set the objective to replace 5,000 lead service lines on public property with copper service lines. Out of this total, 35 percent are also being replaced on private property.  

Our action plan includes:

  • Making an online map available where residents can get information about whether there is lead in their building’s plumbing.
  • Accelerate screening in order to locate all lead service lines within city limits. The city will screen the tap water of some 100,000 buildings between now and 2023, giving priority to buildings that are home to family day care and early childhood centres, as well as single-family, duplex and triplex homes.
  • Distribute a filtration device to homes where screening has confirmed that there is lead in the water. 
  • Continue the replacement of the public portion of lead service lines. The city will replace all lead service lines between now and 2032. There are around 48,000 lead service lines.
  • Require that the private portion of lead service lines be replaced. Since 2021, when work is planned to replace the public portion of a lead service line, if the private portion is still made of lead, the city will replace it at the same time at the owner’s expense. 
  • As a priority, replace lead service lines in wartime housing as well as single-family, duplex and triplex homes.

Health impacts

The Direction régionale de santé publique de Montréal considers that the health risks of lead in water are low. To learn more, visit the Santé Montréal Web site.