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(Paul Goyette)
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 08 November 2017

The Portland Water Bureau recently released a report from its twice-a-year testing for lead in water at 134 high-risk homes – and the results have raised eyebrows.

The figures showed that 18 (or 13 percent) of these homes – known to have lead solder in their plumbing – had lead-in-water levels that exceed the federal limits.

Test results showed that the lead levels were 17 parts per billion, over the limit of 15 parts per billion.

If more than 10 percent of high-risk homes exceed the state limit, the water bureau must notify the public with strategies to lower levels.  

Lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant people and children six years and younger.

In Portland, home plumbing such as faucets or lead-based solder can contain lead, which is then released into water through corrosive action of water passing through pipes.

The city receives its water through the Bull Run watershed which, according to the water bureau, treats drinking water by raising its pH level to make it less corrosive.

October’s testing is the third time in five years that the city has surpassed federal limits on lead in water.

“Ideally, all of our customers' household plumbing fixtures would be lead-free, but they aren't,” said Portland Water Bureau director Michael Stuhr in a statement. “This is why we are making improvements to our system to further reduce the potential for lead at our customers' taps.”

The results prompted the Portland City Council to authorize the water bureau’s corrosion control treatment – to be in place by spring 2022 – to help curb the levels of lead in drinking water.

The Portland Water Bureau and regional providers recommend the following easy steps that customers can take to reduce exposure to lead in water:

  1. Run water to flush the lead out. If the water has not been used for several hours, run each tap for 30 seconds to two minutes or until it becomes colder before drinking or cooking. This simple step can reduce lead in water up to 90 percent or more.
  2. Use cold, fresh water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap; lead dissolves more easily into hot water. Do not use water from the hot water tap to make baby formula.
  3. Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
  4. Test children for lead. Ask a physician or call the LeadLine to find out how to have aa child tested for lead. A blood lead level test is the only way to know if a child is being exposed to lead.
  5. Test your water for lead. Call the LeadLine at 503-988-4000 to find out how to get a FREE lead-in-water test.
  6. Consider using a filter. Check whether it reduces lead -- not all filters do. Be sure to maintain and replace a filter device in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions to protect water quality. Contact NSF International at 800-NSF-8010 or www.nsf.org for information on performance standards for water filters.
  7. Regularly clean the faucet aerator. Particles containing lead from solder or household plumbing can become trapped in faucet aerators. Regularly cleaning every few months will remove these particles and reduce the exposure to lead.
  8. Consider buying low-lead fixtures. As of 2014, all pipes, fittings and fixtures are required to contain less than 0.25 percent lead. When buying new fixtures, consumers should seek out those with the lowest lead content. 

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