Portland, OR

Testing shows high levels of lead in water of Portland homes

Liam Ford

The water reservoir in Mount Tabor Park. High levels of lead have been detected in drinking water in Portland homes.| Another Believer via Wikimedia Commons

PORTLAND, OR — Testing of Portland homes has revealed lead in drinking water almost one-and-a-half times higher than what the Environmental Protection Agency considers acceptable.

“These results are a warning light that requires us to investigate and take action,” said Gabriel Solmer, director of the Portland Water Bureau, in a news release yesterday.

The bureau’s latest twice-a-year test revealed lead content at 21 parts per billion, which is above the EPA’s “action level” of 15 ppb, sparking the public notice.

Fourteen of 104 homes tested were above the 15 ppb threshold.

Officials note that the results are not representative of Portland’s water system. Houses plumbed or built between 1970 and 1985 are at the highest risk of lead contamination.

Lead levels last exceeded the 15 ppb threshold in the fall of 2017, according to the bureau.

Earlier that year, a study was conducted to determine the causes of lead corrosion in the city’s water system. The results led to the construction of the Improved Corrosion Control Treatment facility, which is to be in operation by April 2022.

Lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to humans even at low levels, according to the EPA.

Lead in the blood of children can cause: behavior and learning problems; lower IQ and hyperactivity; slowed growth; hormonal problems; and anemia.

Lead affects adults by increasing blood pressure, reducing kidney function, and causing reproductive problems.

In pregnant women, it can impede growth of the fetus and cause premature birth.

Residents concerned about lead in their water can order a free test by visiting www.leadline.org or calling 503-988-4000.

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