In recent days many Montrealers received worrisome news in their mailbox.

The city of Montreal has sent notices and pamphlets to 128,000 residences that might have lead pipes connecting their homes to the city’s water supply.

This could mean that there’s lead in the drinking water of some residences. 

Master plumber Murray Davis said the majority of older homes he visits still have the lead pipes and they're easy to detect.

"A lead pipe is grey, it's always grey, there's no other colour," he said. "Lead pipe is also a soft metal. So, don't go down and hit it with a hammer to see if it's copper because it's going to break if it's lead."

Many homeowners are upset that they are also being advised to replace the lead water service pipes at their own expense. It’s a big cost for residents that can run anywhere from $2,000 - $4,000. While replacing them isn't mandatory, water services director Chantal Morissette said it's a matter of improving water quality.

"The water that we produce from our six drinking water plants has no lead," she said. "There's no lead in the water main either. There may only be lead in the drinking water that flows through the lead service line."

The city plans to eliminate 60,000 lead water service connections by 2026.

For anyone who cannot replace their service pipes, the city offers this advice:

  • Install a lead reduction filter on your faucet or under your sink.
  • Use a water pitcher with a lead reduction filter.
  • Use bottled water.
  • Let your water run for a few minutes before consuming.

Morissette advised against boiling water, as that will concentrate the lead.

Water policy analyst Ketra Schmitt said more stringent testing of the city's water supply is needed.

"I think in general, we do have high quality water, but it's not as if we have that information on a real time basis or even a daily basis, to actually know," she said. "It's not as if we're testing people's blood-lead levels or particularly children's blood-lead levels to actually know."