Lead pigtails found in some water lines in Medford neighborhoods

Medford, Ore. — Only on NBC5 News, a comprehensive study will soon be taking place on water in the Rogue Valley, and tonight NBC5 News has learned that lead was recently found in old connection pipes, or pigtails.

Medford Water Commission Chair Leigh Johnson says staff and management recently found lead pigtails within older Medford neighborhoods.

“Those pigtails as we understand it were probably installed, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 years ago when they had no records,” Johnson says.

According to the MWC, those pigtail pipes connect the main lines to meters. They’ve since been replaced, but the recent findings have prompted the commission to do a large-scale study of the whole system which he says hasn’t been done in over 30 years.

A 2015 water quality report, showed all but one residence tested for lead were well below the 15 parts per billion requirement by the EPA, however the Water Commission’s most recent tests done in Medford, Eagle Point, and Jacksonville were back in 2013. (The tests are completed every 3 years).

Johnson says they’ll be putting out a request for proposal for the study in the next couple of weeks, but the public shouldn’t be concerned.

“The tests we have show we’re in total compliance,” Johnson adds.

A spokesperson for the Medford Water Commission says they have replaced the lead pigtails as they’ve found them. In a statement they say, “The Medford Water Commission wishes to inform our customers that there may be lead pigtails connecting some service lines within older neighborhoods of Medford. Pigtails are short lead pipes, typically 1 to 2 feet long, that connect individual service lines to the water main. It has been our longstanding practice to remove lead pigtails when they are found within our system, and we will continue to do so. Because many of these have been removed over the years, identifying exact locations and numbers of any remaining pigtails will take some time.

Our water has always easily met all state and federal standards for lead testing. However, recent national events have brought to light that those standards may not be sufficient.  We are therefore devoting considerable attention to this matter.

While we don’t have precise locations, it is currently believed that that homes built after 1950 are unlikely to have service lines with pigtails. Particularly for those who live in homes older than that, customers are advised to run their tap until after it becomes cold to flush water that has been sitting in pipes when water has not been used for several hours.”

The MWC tells NBC5 News where pigtails have been found they did not test the homes to see if lead was present and say it’s possible lead could have gotten into their water. We’ll have much more on this ongoing investigation Tuesday night.

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