Communities across the Northwest were shocked recently to discover dangerously high lead levels in their water. How did this happen, and what’s being done to fix the problem?
The Portland Parks and Recreation Department took 180 samples to test for lead in water recently and found levels officials say are concerning at 17 of those fixtures.
The department looked for lead in concentrations greater than 20 parts per billion, which is above the Environmental Protection Agency suggested guidelines.
The faucets and drinking fountains with lead above that level will be replaced.
“We will continue to work with technical experts and [Commissioner Amanda Fritz] to develop protocols for testing of our facilities,” said Portland Parks and Recreation Director Mike Abbaté. “The public is concerned. And as a member of an agency that’s devoted to serving the public, they have a concern and we try to address it.”
Abbaté added that he drank the water at the four locations with the high samples “all the time.”
The samples in question were taken from the Fulton Community Center, Portland Children’s Museum, Multnomah Arts Center and the Mt. Tabor Annex.
Many of the highest lead levels were found in the sinks of rooms. One sink at the Children’s Museum tested four times the level suggested by the EPA, while a sink at the Multnomah Arts Center was five times higher than federal guidelines.
However, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of a person being harmed “would not be likely” for the vast majority of the samples collected by the Parks and Recreation department.