- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon Health Authority has ordered Portland to reduce lead levels in drinking water on the heels of new testing that found too much lead at some taps.

In a Nov. 4 letter to the Portland Water Bureau, Oregon public health director Lillian Shirley said the city must submit a plan for lead reduction by Dec. 2, and identify immediate steps it will take to fix the problem.

To permanently solve the issue, Portland must upgrade its water treatment facilities and infrastructure, Shirley said. She gave the city six years to get it done.

City officials contacted by The Oregonian/OregonLive on Wednesday declined to say what steps they might suggest Dec. 2. Past studies have shown that Portland could increase pH levels and alkalinity, which would likely reduce the pipe corrosion that causes lead release, particularly in homes with lead-soldered plumbing or brass faucets.

As for the long-term plan, Scott Bradway, Portland’s lead hazard reduction manager, said the City Council will be asked to approve a new water treatment plant.

“Right now, our indications are this is probably the best path,” he told the newspaper (https://bit.ly/2fDnNnc).

Portland’s lead levels are higher than others nationally because regulators in the 1990s allowed the city to sidestep rules meant to minimize lead and pipe corrosion. Officials at the time considered exposure to lead paint a bigger problem, and were allowed to focus on that issue.

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