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Tigard home found with extremely high lead level in water

Lead came from faucet and not from Tigard's water supply, city says

A home in Tigard made headlines this week after it a faucet in its home posted lead levels more than 40 times higher than the legal limit.

The Oregonian newspaper broke the story on Sunday as part of a series of stories related to lead found in several Portland Public Schools buildings, which sparked public outcry over the past few weeks.

The Oregonian reported that during testing in April, a home in Tigard was found to have 658 parts per billion.

“That is extremely high,” said John Goodrich, a Tigard utility manager in charge of the city’s water supply.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that children and pregnant women should not drink water with lead levels that exceed 15 parts per billion.

Tigard and the city of Portland, which supplied Tigard's water until this month, conduct federally required tests twice a year at older homes which use lead and copper piping, Goodrich said.

Many homes built between 1970 and 1985 included copper piping and lead solder. Lead solder was banned in the 1980s, but water utilities are still required to test older homes for lead and copper contamination.

Goodrich declined to say who owned the home mentioned in the story, but said that the home was located within Tigard’s city limits.

Tigard also supplies water to the cities of Durham and King City, as well as Bull Mountain.

The house in question has been tested many times before, Goodrich said, and has never had a problem. April’s test was conducted on a bathroom faucet instead of the kitchen faucet that is usually tested.

The city and Portland Water Bureau immediately spoke with the homeowner and retested the faucet several times.

“When we see something like this, we get very concerned,” Goodrich said. “… This was such a high level, we wanted to re-test to confirm the results.”

Goodrich said that the lead contamination came from the faucet itself and didn’t stem from either Tigard or Portland’s water system.

“I believe this was an isolated incident,” Goodrich said. “We told the customer not to use the bathroom sink for drinking purposes and encouraged them to replace their faucet.”

According to Goodrich, Tigard doesn’t use lead in its water system, but said that some older homes built before the 1990s did use lead solder in water pipes, as well as in drinking water fixtures.

“Unfortunately, we’re talking about a private household’s plumbing,” he said. “Our responsibility as a water provider is reducing the lead in the distribution system. The source water has no lead, the distribution system has low risk of lead based on type of materials we use. … Once water goes from the meter into the household plumbing, our authority ends. … From Tigard’s standpoint, what we do is try to monitor, make sure that construction practices illuminate the risk of lead, and continue all the things we do day-to-day to reduce that risk.”

This month, the city switched over to a new water system operated by Tigard and Lake Oswego. The two cities have been working on the project since 2008.

Goodrich said that the new system doesn’t use lead or copper piping, which will greatly lower the risk of lead or copper contamination in the water.