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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

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How the Water Bureau Reduces Lead Exposure

The Portland Water Bureau has complied with the Lead and Copper Rule since 1997 through its Lead Hazard Reduction Program.

The Lead and Copper Rule is a drinking water regulation intended to protect public health by reducing lead and copper levels in drinking water.

The Lead and Copper Rule focuses on water treatment to control corrosion of lead and copper from home and building plumbing materials into tap water. The rule required large water systems such as the Portland Water Bureau to provide optimal corrosion control treatment by 1997.

To determine optimal corrosion control treatment, the Water Bureau conducted a corrosion control study in 1994. In June 1994, the Portland City Council directed the Water Bureau to conduct a study to investigate alternatives to corrosion control treatment alone. Alternatives were evaluated based on several factors, including protection of public health, public and regulatory acceptance.

Based on the study, the Water Bureau developed the Lead Hazard Reduction Program in partnership with State and County health officials and community partners to comply with the Lead and Copper Rule. In 1997, the State of Oregon approved this program as optimal corrosion control treatment for lead and copper.


The Lead Hazard Reduction Program

The Lead Hazard Reduction Program is focused on reducing exposure to lead from all sources and has four parts:


Additional Water System Improvements

In addition to the Lead Hazard Reduction Program, the Water Bureau has initiated several efforts to reduce or remove sources of lead from the water system. The Portland Water Bureau:

  • Partnered with the State of Oregon to enact Oregon’s lead-based solder ban, which was passed by the State legislature in 1985.
  • Removed known sources of lead from the system. All known lead service connections (pigtails) were removed from the system by 1998.
  • Replaced large meters with lead components that serve water to at-risk populations. For more than ten years all replacement meters have been lead-free.


Looking Forward

In 2014, in anticipation of changes to the water system like decommissioning the open reservoirs, the Portland Water Bureau embarked on a water quality corrosion study. This study concluded in 2016 and the results indicated that additional treatment is the most effective means of further reducing lead in water from home and building plumbing. Learn more about upcoming treatment changes on our Treatment page.

The Portland Water Bureau continues to keep its regulators updated on the progress of the Lead Hazard Reduction Program and the steps to improve corrosion control.  In 2016, the bureau met with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide updates on Portland’s approach to complying with the Lead and Copper Rule and outlined its current water quality corrosion study and next steps for treatment improvements. In December 2016, the Portland Water Bureau submitted an Interim Lead Reduction Plan to OHA.  

Links to relevant communications, including the presentations from the OHA and EPA meetings, are provided on the Key Documents page.


Additional information can be found in: 

Treatment and Monitoring

How the Portland Water Bureau Treats and Monitors for Lead and Copper in Drinking Water

Lead Hazard Reduction Program Partners

Information and links to partners providing free blood testing, lead poisoning prevention workshops, and more.

Lead Paint Remediation

The Portland Lead Hazard Control Program provides financial assistance to reduce lead-based paint hazards in housing.

Materials Inventory

Under the federal Lead and Copper Rule, the Portland Water Bureau was required to identify the materials used in its distribution system.