City monitors lead levels in water; offers advice for high risk homes

July 9, 2018

Twice annually, the City tests water samples in high-risk homes known to contain copper pipes and lead solder, which are more likely to contribute to elevated lead levels in drinking water. Recent samples show lead concentrations in seven homes out of the 65 enrolled in this voluntary program were above the action level of 15 ppb; the Oregon Health Authority requires public notification when more than 10% of homes sampled are above the action level. The City will work with these residents to provide them with tools and information to reduce their exposure — including the simple step of running water run for 30 seconds to two minutes.

In 1986 the City removed all known lead service connections from its distribution system. Exposure to lead through drinking water is possible if materials in a home’s plumbing contain lead. High-risk homes are typically built between 1983 and 1985 and may have used higher risk pipe materials. Lead enters drinking water primarily because of corrosion in building plumbing and fixtures. The 65 homes in Gresham that participate in a voluntary water monitoring program represent high-risk homes. Samples are collected by the homeowners after the water has been standing in the household plumbing for more than six hours.

"We’ve educated the residents of these high-risk homes how they can take action to reduce exposure to lead in their water,” said Andrew Degner, Water Resources Regulatory Manager. “Protecting public health is one our top priorities at the City of Gresham.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the biggest sources of exposure to lead are not from drinking water but rather from exposure to lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust or soil. Residents concerned about exposure to lead in their homes, especially those with pregnant women and children six years and younger, may contact the LeadLine at www.leadline.org or 503-988-4000 to learn more about reducing exposure.

There are four simple steps to reduce exposure to lead in water:

  1. Run cold water to flush out lead.  If the water hasn’t been used for several hours, run cold taps for 30 seconds to two minutes before drinking or cooking. This simple step can reduce lead in water up to 90% or more.
  2. Clean faucet aerators to remove trapped sediment.
  3. Do not cook, drink or make baby formula with hot water from the tap. Hot water dissolves contaminants, like lead, quicker than cold water.
  4. Do not boil water to reduce lead; it will not remove the contaminant.
  5. Install low lead fixtures and a lead-reducing filter.

Residents may order a free water test kit at Leadline.org.

More information on the City’s water can be found at GreshamOregon.gov/Lead.