Lead Testing Information

The Municipality of Cumberland operates three water utilities – Parrsboro, Pugwash and Springhill. Health Canada and the Nova Scotia Department of Environment have regulations regarding the quality of drinking water and the tests to ensure the quality is maintained. Results in the Parrsboro Water Utility have determined that there are incidences of increased lead concentration in some of the samples.


Lead in drinking water can be caused by numerous factors including lead compounds used to join older pipes, lead service lateral pipes, internal (household) piping or fixtures made of lead, and solder. The corrosion potential of water can also impact the amount of lead absorbed from these sources. The water distribution system in Parrsboro has varying age pipes. There are many pipes that are over 100-years old which are made of cast iron that may have joints with lead caulking and may be a contributing factor to the test results.

Lead exposure limits with Health Canada Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality and Nova Scotia Department of Environment were lowered to a maximum acceptable concentration of lead in drinking water from 10 to 5 µg/l (micrograms per litre). The testing procedure laid out by the Nova Scotia Department of Environment requires testing water that has not been run for at least six hours.

Of the 22 residences sampled, six were higher than the maximum acceptable concentration. Based on follow-up testing, it is expected that 20 of the residences sampled would have less than 5 µg/l following ten minutes of flushing. Two residences with higher concentrations were sampled later and additional testing is planned to assess lead concentrations with flushing.

All residences where sample levels were higher than the maximum acceptable concentration have already been notified.

The Parrsboro Water Utility is in compliance with its approval to operate issued by Nova Scotia Environment, however, the additional testing identified areas of concern that should be addressed.

Moving forward, the Municipality of Cumberland is taking the following actions:
• Communicating the situation and actions through an information sheet delivered at Post Office boxes in Parrsboro, and on the municipal website. 
• Ongoing collecton of water samples throughout the system and in targeted areas to determine areas of most concern.
• Investigating pipe condition by reviewing information on the existing system.
• Continue the replacement of aged watermains as part of the Municipality’s Capital Investment Plan. This is an expensive and disruptive process where entire streets must be dug up.
• Changes to the water treatment process to reduce the corrosion potential and inhibit corrosion are being reviewed. The intent is to budget for and implement these changes in 2021.