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Recognizing National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Post Date:10/24/2017 12:06 pm

This week, the City of Hillsboro Water Department marks National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, an annual observance to raise awareness of the potential risks associated with lead paint, lead-contaminated soil and dust, and lead in drinking water. 

Young child getting drinkLead can be found in several places both inside and outside of the home. However, lead is mostly found in lead-based paint, which was used in homes before 1978. Lead poisoning is most often caused by accidently swallowing or breathing in the lead dust created by old paint that has cracked and chipped. Although rare, lead can enter drinking water when customer’s service pipes containing lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures.

Here in the City of Hillsboro, protection of public health is top priority. Water is tested regularly to ensure every drop in the Hillsboro water system is safe to drink. This includes lead and copper sampling, the only water testing done by the Hillsboro Water Department using samples pulled from the very end of the distribution system – our customer’s taps.

Please take a moment to read the information below and take steps now to protect your family from household lead exposure.

How does lead get into water?
Household plumbing is the main source of lead in drinking water. This is usually from lead solder used in homes built or plumbed with copper pipes before 1985. Lead can also be found in brass plumbing fixtures and components. Lead can enter drinking water through corrosion of lead components in piping, home plumbing, or fixtures.

Who is most at risk?

If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems. Pregnant women, young children, and infants are particularly vulnerable to lead.

Is there lead in Hillsboro’s water?

Hillsboro’s drinking water comes from a high-quality source – the upper-Tualatin River - and consistently meets and exceeds all federal and state drinking water standards, including requirements for lead and copper. There are no known lead service lines or infrastructure components in Hillsboro Water Department’s water distribution system. The majority of the water pipes are made of iron and steel, with some copper, and a small amount of plastic near MAX tracks areas.

Does Hillsboro monitor for lead in water?

Yes. Water providers, including the Hillsboro Water Department, test for lead and copper on a required schedule set by the State of Oregon Health Department. Testing ensures water consumed by customers meet safe drinking water standards.

How does Hillsboro test for lead?
As lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with customer’s service lines and home plumbing, the Hillsboro Water Department conducts testing directly at customer’s taps instead of in the distribution system. The process includes collecting water samples from at least 30 Hillsboro homes constructed from January 1, 1983 to June 1, 1985.

Homes built during this time frame are considered at highest risk for lead exposure through household plumbing sources. Samples are then shipped to an Oregon Health Authority accredited laboratory. The lab performs water analysis work and returns results to the Hillsboro Water Department.

The Hillsboro Water Department began sampling for lead and copper in 1992 and has never exceeded the EPA’s action level in the city system. The next round of testing will occur in 2018. Results from past lead and copper testing can be found on the State’s website.

Is Hillsboro’s water treated to reduce lead and copper levels?
The Hillsboro Water Department is required to provide treatment protection to minimize leaching. All water delivered to homes and businesses in the City of Hillsboro’s service area has gone through optimized treatment for corrosion control.

A form of soda to raise the pH and reduce the corrosiveness of the water is used to reduce the potential for lead to leach from private plumbing fixtures.

What actions can members of the community take to reduce lead in drinking water?

The Hillsboro Water Department is responsible for providing high quality drinking water, but cannot control the variety of materials used in customers’ plumbing components. Customers are encouraged to take the following measures to minimize the potential for lead exposure: 

  • Flush pipes for 30 seconds to two minutes before using water for drinking or cooking.
  • Only use cold water for eating and drinking.
  • Note that boiling water will NOT get rid of lead contamination.
  • If necessary, use water filters and water treatment devices certified for effective lead reduction.

Additional information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps to minimize exposure is available online or at 1-800-426-4791.

Does the Hillsboro Water Department offer lead testing?
Yes. Since you cannot see, taste, or smell lead dissolved in water, testing is a sure way of telling whether there are harmful quantities of lead in your drinking water. The City of Hillsboro Water Department provides free Lead-In-Water testing for Hillsboro residents, childcare facilities (daycares), and nonprofit organizations who are current customers and located in the Hillsboro Water Department’s service area. Learn more online.

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