“We don’t know how many are out there,” MWC on lead pipes

Medford, Ore. —  You heard it here first last night, when NBC5 News launched an investigation into the discovery of lead pipes within Medford’s water system. According to the Medford Water Commission, lead pigtails – which connect the main water lines to meters – have been found in some older neighborhoods. Now, the commission is in the process of finding out how many are still out there, and where they might be, but the commission is still not saying when they first found out about this or why it wasn’t made public until we started asking questions.

“Unfortunately we don’t know how many are out there in our system,” Public Information Coordinator Sara Bristol says.

Public Information Coordinator Sara Bristol says for the last 30 years it’s been the commission’s practice to remove the lead parts when they find them, but it wasn’t always documented.

“Records over the years were not necessarily kept about which homes had been replaced,” Bristol says.

The Medford Water Commission is now compiling a map looking at homes that were built before 1946. As many as 4,000 homes meet that criteria, but that doesn’t mean every home has a pigtail.

“In some of these areas they have been looking within a block or two and are not necessarily finding that every house on the street has pigtails.”

A recent water quality report shows homes tested in the Medford area for lead were well below the 15 parts per billion requirement by the EPA, but the city is only required to test 30 homes every 3 years. And NBC5 News has learned that homes where lead pigtails were found were not tested for elevated levels of lead.

But there are steps that any homeowner can take to ensure their water is safe, including flushing their lines for 30 seconds to 2 minutes or until it runs cold.

“That means that the water has been moving through and is not coming from that service line that has been sitting their overnight.”

Funding was just approved for a comprehensive analysis of the water system, but because they are in the early stages of remedying this issue there’s no timeline for when it will be complete.

“It’s a process,” Bristol says, “that takes a lot of manpower, takes a lot of time, takes a lot of money.”

Late last week NBC5 News filed a public records request seeking information about when the lead pipes first became known but have yet to receive that information. We’ve also yet to have our calls returned from the manager of the Medford Water Commission.

We reached out to Nielsen Research Corporation in Medford, and they tell us in the wake of this discovery they’ve lowered the rates for water testing for the public. Right now, residents can get their water tested for $38. Click HERE for more information.


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