Portland water engineers have completed a treatment facility that they hope will fix the city’s lead problem once and for all.
Drinking water from the Bull Run watershed, a protected area near Mount Hood where Portland gets its water supply, is naturally corrosive. It has long been a problem for Portlanders with lead in their household plumbing, who risk seeing the toxic metal leaching from pipes into their tap water.
The Portland Water Board built the Enhanced Corrosion Control Treatment Facility to make the water supply less corrosive and protect these Portlanders from exposure to lead in their pipes. Homes most at risk are those built or plumbed between 1970 and 1985, a time when copper pipes with lead solder were common. The water office estimates that there are around 15,000 houses from this era. The installation officially went live on April 21.
“We all think this will really put that behind us so to speak. This will really ensure that lead and drinking water in the vast majority of homes in our system are no longer a problem,” said Scott Bradway, lead risk reduction program manager for the office. “This treatment will be a huge improvement for our system.”
The installation will treat the water with soda and carbon dioxide. Bradway added that he doesn’t expect Portland residents to notice a taste change in their drinking water.
With a total project cost of $20.4 million, the water office met its estimated budget of $20 million. The office received a low-cost, long-term loan to help fund the project through the Federal Water Infrastructure Funding and Innovation Act.
The completion of the facility comes five months after the Oregon Health Authority asked the water office to come up with an action plan to reduce lead in drinking water following alarming tests . In November, the city sampled 104 homes with known lead components in their plumbing and found 10% had lead levels above 21 parts per billion – the highest lead levels the city had seen in two years. decades.
The results far exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s “action level” of 15 parts per billion (ppb). If more than 10% of test samples come back with lead levels above 15 ppb, the Environmental Protection Agency asks the utility to try to reduce the amount of lead in the water. City leaders said they would distribute free water filters and accelerate the schedule for the corrosion control treatment facility. They aim to achieve their proposed goals – an alkalinity of 25 milligrams per liter and a pH of 8.5 – by the end of the summer.
The Water Office offers free lead-in-water testing to all residential customers and child care providers. People can contact the LeadLine at leadline.org or 503-988-4000 to receive a free lead in water test. The water office offers free water filters to anyone who has a lead level test of 10 ppb or higher.