Oregon’s largest school district and its flagship university have both announced the discovery of elevated lead. For Portland Public Schools, it’s lead paint found on a window sill. At University of Oregon, it’s high lead levels in drinking water where students live.


Lead In The Water

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?

Three residence halls at UO tested high for lead in the drinking water. University officials said high levels were confirmed in roughly one-fifth of water fixtures at Barnhart, Hamilton and Walton halls. Students will be advised not to drink or cook with water from dorm water fixtures “as a precaution.”

That warning also goes for Bean Hall, where testing results aren’t back yet. Classes begin Sept. 26.

The revelations at UO follow findings at Oregon State and Portland State universities, from two months ago. OSU announced high lead levels in a bathroom at Poling Hall back in July. Portland State found elevated lead at Cramer Hall – an academic building.

Both OSU and PSU took steps to mitigate the problem. UO is planning to, as well.

The Oregon Institute of Technology tested its Klamath Falls campus for lead over the summer, but didn’t find any high levels.

Portland Public Schools has acknowledged the presence of elevated lead in window troughs at a school in the Southwest part of the district. District officials say the lead in two classrooms at Hayhurst School likely came from old paint chips.

Hayhurst teachers in those rooms have been told to keep their windows closed.

The revelation of lead at Hayhurst follows the discovery over the summer of elevated lead on the playground at Alameda Elementary School in Northeast Portland. Virtually every Portland school building has tested high for lead in drinking water, in at least a few fixtures.