Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

Portland Water Bureau

From forest to faucet, we deliver the best drinking water in the world.


1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97204

More Contact Info

Lead & Copper

Lead and Copper Rule 

In 1992, the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Lead and Copper Rule for drinking water went into effect. Lead or copper in tap water is primarily due to corrosion of plumbing system components within buildings. Plumbing components include copper pipes, lead-based solder used to join segments of copper pipe, and faucets made from brass that contain lead.

The rule sets action levels for lead and copper in standing samples collected from homes with high risk for elevated lead and copper levels. The action level for lead is 15 micrograms per liter (µg/L) of water or 15 parts per billion (ppb). This compares to 1/10 of one teaspoon of sugar in 10,000 gallons of water. The copper action level is 1.3 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of water or 1.3 parts per million (ppm). If the monitoring results for a public water system exceed the action level for lead, the water system must conduct a public information campaign, and may be required to treat source water to control corrosion.

Portland's water rarely contains detectable lead, but lead can leach into drinking water when water stands in contact with lead based solder or brass faucets containing lead. The Lead and Copper Rule required public water systems to monitor lead in standing water from homes most likely to have elevated levels of lead in drinking water. These homes were built between 1983-85 with copper plumbing pipes joined with lead solder.

Twice each year the Portland Water Bureau and wholesale water providers test high-risk homes in the service area for lead in drinking water, drawing water samples that have been standing in the pipes for several hours. These results sometimes exceeded the action level for lead in drinking water, triggering semi-annual education efforts to inform consumers about lead hazards.

Corrosion treatment to reduce lead levels in drinking water is one component of the Bureau's Lead Hazard Reduction Program to help minimize lead exposure in our community and ensure ongoing compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule. Other components include public education and community outreach and a free lead in water testing program.