VIDEO: Residents upset they weren’t notified of lead pipes sooner

Medford, Ore. — Lead levels in a Medford home were nearly 30 times the EPA standard, and some affected residents say the results are disappointing and they wish they had known sooner. NBC5 broke the story about the knowledge of lead pigtails in early June, but a public records request shows at least one pigtail was removed and recorded in the beginning of May, and employees knew they existed before then.

“I’m glad that you guys are at least bringing this to light.”

Jesse Wilson was shocked when a water commission employee dropped off the test results Wednesday night.

“If I had known” Wilson says, “I wouldn’t have been drinking the water.”

The lead pigtail on Oakdale Avenue was removed on June 24th, 9 days after a plan was put in place at a Water Commission Board meeting to locate and remove any remaining lead pipes. But public documents obtained by NBC5 News reveal that there was knowledge of lead pigtails more than a month prior.

In a May memo to Manager Larry Rains from Water Quality Director Rosie Pindilli, Pindilli talks about a conversation she had with service crews, writing quote “they have told me over and over that there are LSL’s (lead service lines) in the system, which I have relayed to you and others many times. I also stated many times that we should not claim we have no lead lines until we prove we do not- that could become a public nightmare.”

When we asked the manager why it wasn’t made public right then , he says he’s brought it to the board.

“I follow the directions of the board,” Rains says, “they didn’t give any direction other than taking the information.”

We asked the board chair why nothing was posted on the website or sent out to customers until we started asking questions.

Leigh Johnson told us, “if somebody pulls one little part out of the ground we’re not gonna do a public alert.” He continued saying, “there wasn’t a problem, there was a problem in one spot, now we have a problem in 5 spots.”

For Jesse Wilson, that kind of position is unsettling.

“If it’s one who has cancer it’s a problem, if its one that’s drinking lead its a problem,” Wilson says, “if I consumed it- especially without my knowledge- it’s a problem cause I wouldn’t have consumed it.”

And when we asked if the board, or the manager would have gone about things differently knowing now that high levels of lead were found in the water of homes connected to a lead pigtail, they told us, “we talked about it in a public meeting, you just weren’t here.”

We’ve also learned another lead pigtail has been found in the commissions investigation of homes that predate 1946, this one on Quince Street. The water commission is working with residents to offer water testing to them before they remove it. Meanwhile, homeowners are encouraged to flush their lines in the morning to filter out any standing water.


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