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Improved corrosion control facility now online

News Article
Most significant treatment change in 24 years makes Bull Run water less corrosive to lead in the plumbing of some homes, buildings.
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The Portland Water Bureau has improved water treatment to help protect the health of nearly a million people who drink Bull Run water. This week, the Water Bureau brought Improved Corrosion Control Treatment online at our Lusted Hill Facility to further reduce potential levels of lead at customers’ taps.  The upgraded treatment is expected to improve everyone’s health outcomes by further reducing the exposure to lead in water from home plumbing.

The Improved Corrosion Control Treatment Project (ICCT) was completed in April 2022.

Water from the Bull Run Watershed, Portland’s primary source of drinking water, is naturally corrosive, and lead in plumbing can be released when it is in contact with water. Fortunately, there are very few sources of lead in Portland’s drinking water system and lead service lines were never used. In Portland, lead in water primarily comes from home plumbing, such as lead-based solder or faucets. Even with the existing corrosion control treatment that has been in place since 1997, some homes still had high levels of lead at the tap. The improved corrosion control treatment aims to further reduce the levels of lead in all buildings with lead in plumbing.

Improved Treatment Improves Health for Everyone

  • Improved treatment uses two naturally occurring substances—sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide—to increase the pH and alkalinity of Bull Run water, making it less corrosive to lead and other metals found in some home and building plumbing. 
  • Households with plumbing and fixtures containing lead will especially benefit. 

“I committed to being the last City Commissioner to tackle the harmful problem of lead exposure through drinking water,” said Water Commissioner Mingus Mapps. “Improved Corrosion Control is a pivotal milestone toward achieving this goal.”

Water Bureau Director Gabriel Solmer said, “The Improved Corrosion Control Treatment Facility is our strongest tool yet to make drinking water safer for everyone, regardless of the plumbing inside their home, school and building. I am proud of our dedicated water quality and operations teams who have honored our commitment to the community.”

Project Exceeded City Equity Goals

The Improved Corrosion Control Treatment delivered on City equity goals by providing work opportunities for minorities and women in the trades.

  • The Water Bureau exceeded the City’s Social Equity Contracting Initiative goals:  
  • More than $4 million/approximately 55 percent of the project’s hard construction costs, was subcontracted with firms certified by the state’s Certification Office for Business Inclusion and Diversity (COBID), exceeding the City’s 22 percent goal. 
  • More than11,000 hours were performed by minority and women apprentices and journey-level tradespeople, exceeding the City’s goal of 31 percent.
  • One percent of the contract dollars will be invested in the City’s Community Opportunities and Enhancement Program that provides grants to increase diversity of business owners and tradespeople in Portland’s construction industry. 

Keeping Rates Affordable

The Improved Corrosion Treatment project budget was completed within budget and on time, achieving our compliance agreement with federal and state safe drinking water regulations.

Portland also secured a low-cost Water Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan from the Environmental Protection Agency to help finance the project and maintain water rate affordability for customers.  This is the first of two significant investments in the future of Bull Run water, using the low-cost federal financing to help keep rates affordable for most of our customers. The second major investment is a new water filtration facility that will remove the microorganism Cryptosporidium and other potential contaminants from Bull Run water as required by regulators to be completed in 2027.  

“All of us want to know that when we turn on the tap, the water that comes out will be safe for us and our families,” said Senator Jeff Merkley. “That's why I created the WIFIA program nine years ago, and why I'm so glad that the Portland Water Bureau is using the program to upgrade their treatment systems. These improvements will mean less exposure to lead from home plumbing for those who drink Bull Run water, paid for with WIFIA's low-cost financing that won't burden ratepayers. I look forward to seeing this project come to fruition."

Financial assistance is available to qualifying water users by calling 503-823-7770 or visiting portland.gov/water/financialassistance. For more information about Improved Corrosion Control, visit portland.gov/water/bullruntreatment/corrosion-control.