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Portland Water Bureau's twice-a-year tests reveal lead levels at high-risk homes throughout the city.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - Portland tests have discovered high levels of lead in homes around the city.The Portland Water Bureau has announced that its most recent tests for lead in water exceeded allowable levels in high-risk homes.

The bureau tested water from 134 homes in October that are deemed high-risk because they're known to have lead solder in their plumbing. The results found 18 homes exceeded the fedewral limit of 15 parts per billion.

When more than 10 percent of homes test above the federal limit, the bureau is required to notify the public of the results. A number of previous test have produced similar results, most recently in the fall of 2016, when 14 of 112 homes exceeded the lead-in-water limit.

According to the PWB, there are potentially up to 15,000 homes in Portland that were built between 1970 and 1985 that are more likley to have lead solder in their water pipes.

Because of that, in March, the Portland City Council gave the water bureau approval to begin "implementation of improved corrosion control treatment" as a way to reduce lead levels in drinking water. The improved treatment is expected to start by the spring of 2022.

Portland's drinking water comes from the Bull Run Watershed, which the bureau treats to make it less corrosive by raising the pH of the water.

"Ideally, all of our customers' household plumbing fixtures would be lead-free, but they aren't. This is why we are making improvements to our system to further reduce the potential for lead at our customers' taps," PWB Director Michael Stuhr said of the results.

Even small exposure to lead can cause lifetime developmental damage, especially in infants and children.

To reduce the threat, the bureau advises that those living in high-risk homes: run tap water two minutes to floush out lead, use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula, never boil water, and consider using a filter that reduces lead.

To test children for lead, ask a physician or contacting the LeadLine at 503-988-4000 or by visiting multco.us/health/lead-poisoning-prevention.

Free home testing for lead is also available at the LeadLine.

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