Lead and Your Drinking Water

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TVWD Commissioners, managers and staff take lead very seriously. Decades of testing and the most recent enhancements to the District's monitoring program reflect our commitment as a public water system to protecting our community's health.

 

Testing for Lead and Copper

Twice each year, TVWD collects samples from a minimum ofnearly 100 high-risk, "tier-one" homes (residential homes plumbed with copper pipes and lead solder that were built between 1983 - 1985, just prior to the lead in solder ban). These samples are analyzed at a certified laboratory, and results are reported to TVWD staff.

Lead results are reported in parts per billion (ppb), which means one part of lead is present for every one billion parts of water. Copper results are reported in parts per million (ppm), which means one part of copper is present for every one million parts of water. These results are compared to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "action levels." 90 percent of TVWD's results must be below the action level or the District would have to take further action.

 

Fall 2018 Lead and Copper Results

TVWD Lead Results

10.0 ppb

EPA Action Level

15.0 ppb

TVWD Copper Results 0.274 ppm

EPA Action Level

1.3 ppm

In May 2017, at the direction of the TVWD Board of Commissioners, TVWD implemented a new District-specific monitoring program. Prior to this, TVWD participated in a joint monitoring program to determine lead and copper levels in water from residential homes plumbed with copper pipes and lead solder. This joint program was administered by the Portland Water Bureau and included public water systems who use Portland's water supply. If high levels of lead were found, all participating water systems were required to notify customers regardless of individual results. This triggered instances when TVWD was required to notify customers of high lead levels even though TVWD's individual results were lower than those of the combined program's results. Since 2017, TVWD's results have been consistently below the EPA's action level for both lead and copper.

 

What is TVWD Doing to Reduce Lead Levels Further?

TVWD is planning for the future with the new Willamette Water Supply Program. This program will deliver drinking water to all TVWD customers from a state-of-the-art treatment plant designed to provide the highest quality water possible. Reducing corrosion even further for customer plumbing is an important aspect of this new plant's design and TVWD is currently in the process of making important treatment decisions that will allow this to happen. It's fully expected that when this new supply is delivered to customers in 2026, lead and copper levels will continue to be reduced for the benefit of public health in our region.

 

What are the Sources of Lead?

Lead is rarely found in TVWD's water sources, and there are no lead service lines in the distribution system. The main sources of lead in water in the region are from lead solder used to join copper pipes and brass plumbing fixtures and components. In many homes built or plumbed with copper pipes  prior to before 19865, lead solder was commonly used. When water stands for several hours or more in plumbing systems that contain lead, the lead may dissolve into your drinking water. Water that has been sitting in household pipes for several hours, such as in the morning or after returning from work or school, is most likely to contain lead.

The most common sources of lead exposure for children are deteriorating lead-based paint, lead contaminated dust and lead contaminated residential soil. Exposure to lead is a significant health concern, especially for young children and infants whose growing bodies tend to absorb more lead than the average adult.

 

What Are the Health Effects of Lead?

Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources. It can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body. The greatest risk of exposure is to infants, young children and pregnant women. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children.

 

How Can I Reduce My Exposure to Lead?

  1. Run your water to flush out lead
    Before using water for drinking or cooking, run the water for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, or until it becomes colder from each tap when it has not been used for several hours. This flushes water which may contain lead from the pipes.

  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. Test your water for lead
    TVWD provides a no-cost, in-home lead in water sample kit for residential customers along with additional information about reducing exposure to lead. This is available through the Multnomah County Health Department to all Portland Water Bureau wholesale water customers, including TVWD. If you would like to have your home tested for lead, visit Leadline.org or call (503) 988-4000.

  4. Consider using a filter
    If you have elevated levels of lead in water, you may consider purchasing a water filter to remove it. Be sure it reduces lead - not all filters do. Always maintain and replace a filtration device in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions to protect water quality.

  5. Do not boil water to remove lead
    Boiling water will not reduce lead.

  6. Test your child for lead
    Ask your physician or call the Leadline to find out how to have your child tested for lead. A blood lead level test is the only way to know if your child is being exposed to lead.

  7. Regularly clean your faucet aerator
    Particles containing lead from solder or household plumbing can become trapped in your faucet aerator. Regular cleaning every few months will remove these particles and reduce your exposure to lead.

  8. Consider buying low-lead fixtures
    As of January 2014, all pipes, fittings and fixtures are required to contain less than 0.25 percent lead. When replacing plumbing fixtures, look for those with the lowest lead content.


Lead Forum Video

Video of TVWD's Lead and Water Quality forum from the summer of 2016 is now available. You can watch the full video, video of just the presentation portion or just the question and answer portion. You can also take a look at the PowerPoint presentation (PDF).


Resources

TVWD continues to provide a no-cost, in-home lead in water test kit for residential customers along with additional information about reducing exposure to lead.