Jan 18, 2022

Portland, Oregon, to Take Quicker Action to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water

The city sampled 104 homes in November with known lead components in their plumbing.

oregon water

Portland, Oregon, Water Bureau leaders are planning to speed up the timeline for a new water treatment facility and distribute free water filters after recent tests showed elevated lead levels in some homes.

The levels of lead in water are the highest they’ve been in two decades. These results are exclusive to homes and buildings most at-risk for lead in water, which are those built or plumbed between 1970 and 1985. 

The Oregon Health Authority asked Portland in December to provide a plan to reduce lead in drinking water, reported Oregon Public Broadcasting. 

The city sampled 104 homes in November with known lead components in their plumbing. 10% had lead levels higher than 21 parts per billion (ppb), according to the city. The city gets its drinking water from the Bull Run reservoirs, which has been determined is naturally corrosive.

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“Protecting the health of my community is a responsibility I take seriously. These results are a warning light that requires us to investigate and take action. Fortunately, we’ve been proactively investing in our system to reduce lead at taps for decades,” said Portland Water Bureau Director Gabriel Solmer, reported the city. “By April 2022, we will have our strongest tool yet to make drinking water safer for everyone, regardless of the plumbing inside their home, school and building: our Improved Corrosion Control Treatment Facility.” 

The city’s results are above the U.S. EPA action level of 15 ppb.

Portland officials handed a 12-page plan over to state health regulators on Jan. 7, which lists short-term steps the bureau will take to reduce lead while it builds the new treatment facility. The facility is anticipated to be completed April 2022 and expected to reduce lead levels in the water in homes.

Some of the actions the Water Bureau is taking include:

  • Treating the drinking water to reduce lead and copper;
  • Offering free lead-in-water testing to all residential customers and childcare providers;
  • Increased education and outreach to customers through mailings to multifamily residences and all homes built between 1970 - 1985; 
  • Actively managing drinking water in the distribution system to maintain the effectiveness of corrosion control treatment; And
  • Proactively partnering with the Oregon Health Authority and Multnomah County Health Department.

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