As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposes to make major changes on how to test for lead in drinking water, Portland is taking a more holistic approach to reducing lead in the community.

The Portland Water Bureau is building an improved corrosion control treatment facility in order to protect customers from exposure to lead found in household plumbing.

“We are in the process now of going to full corrosion control treatment that will be in place by April 2022,” Scott Bradway with the Portland Water Bureau said. “We should see those lead levels come down even further from where they are now.”

The treatment will also add alkalinity and increase the pH of the drinking water.

“We put a lot of work and effort into educating our customers on lead in water and reducing their exposure to lead and then all the other sources of lead in the community, such as lead paint, lead dust, and lead soil,” Bradway said.

Bradway said they will also adapt as necessary to proposed changes to the Lead and Copper Rule.

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency is focusing on six key areas and is taking a proactive and holistic approach to improving testing and treatment.

Currently, the Lead and Copper Rule requires systems to monitor drinking water at customer taps and if lead concentrations exceed 15 parts per billion, systems are required to take on several additional actions to control corrosion.

The EPA’s proposal does not change the existing action level of 15 parts per billion, but does for the first time set a new lead trigger level of 10 parts per billion, which would require water systems to identify actions that would reduce lead levels in drinking water.

This is the first major update to the rule since 1991.

The proposal will be open for public comment for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

In Portland, after several public schools tested with high levels of lead in their drinking water pipes, the Oregon Health Authority enacted regulations requiring all schools to test for lead in water by June 2020.

If results are more than 15 parts per billion, the school must prevent access to that tap until levels are reduced.

Schools are also required to retest at least every six years.

Anyone concerned about exposure to lead from their household plumbing is encouraged to get a free lead-in-water test kit by contacting LeadLine.