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200 S. Ivy St. - RM 177
Medford, OR 97501
Phone: 541-774-2728
Fax: 541-826-5402
Contact: Benjamin Klayman, Water Treatment & Quality Director
Email: ben.klayman@medfor. . .
Hours: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Medford Water Commission

Medford Water Commission - 541.774.2430
Water Quality Improvements

Water quality and the protection of public health are Medford Water Commission’s (MWC’s) top priorities. In late 2018, MWC completed a two-year Water Quality and Corrosion Study to better understand options to further reduce the possibility of lead and copper leaching from materials in the water system and home plumbing. Our two water supplies – Big Butte Springs and the Rogue River – do not contain lead or copper.
WQ Improvements


The study showed that adjusting the water chemistry with sodium hydroxide is the best option to reduce the release of lead and copper. Sodium hydroxide is used at thousands of drinking water plants across the nation; when dissolved in water, it breaks down into sodium (found in table salt) and hydroxide ions (found in all water). The sodium concentration in the water will remain at what is considered a very low level by drinking water guidelines. 

Lead and copper have known health effects. Reducing lead and copper release helps keep everyone in our community healthy.

MWC has started preliminary design of the new sodium hydroxide system. It will take around two years to design and construct the water quality improvements.

 

What is the Water Quality and Corrosion Study?

The goal of the two-year Water Quality and Corrosion Study was to better understand options to further reduce the possibility of lead and copper leaching from materials in the water system and home plumbing.  The Water Quality and Corrosion study started in May 2017 and was completed in December 2018. The scientifically rigorous study identified water quality improvements that work with MWC’s water and system, following best practice guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Water Quality and Corrosion Study showed that adjusting water chemistry with sodium hydroxide is the best way to further reduce the release of lead and copper into MWC’s water. 
 

If our water sources do not have lead or copper, how does it get into drinking water?

Lead leaches into water over time through corrosion—a dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and pipes. Lead can leach into water from pipes, solder, fixtures, faucets and fittings. The amount of lead in your water depends on a variety of factors. These include the type and amounts of minerals in the water, the type of pipes the water comes in contact with, how long the water stays in the pipes, the water’s corrosivity, and water temperature.

Lead service lines were not used extensively within MWC’s distribution system and the system fully complies with state and federal rules regarding lead. However, short lead pipes known as “pigtails” did exist within our system. It has been our longstanding policy to remove these lead pigtails as they were found, and in June 2016, MWC launched an extensive effort to track down and remove any lead lines that remain within our system. That intensive program is now complete.

 

What is Medford Water Commission doing to reduce lead and copper in our drinking water?

MWC has taken a multi-pronged approach to reducing lead and copper:
  • Program to proactively find and remove lead pipe “pigtails” installed in the early 1900s. - COMPLETED
     
  • The Water Quality and Corrosion Study, a rigorous scientific study to identify water quality improvements that work with MWC’s water and system. - COMPLETED
     
  • Working with third-party experts and the latest Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance to identify a scientifically rigorous and credible solution. - COMPLETED
     
  • Design and construct new water quality improvements. – ONGOING

How can I know if my home plumbing contains lead?

Testing is the only way to confirm if lead is present or absent. If you’re concerned that your home plumbing may contain lead pipes (lead is a dull gray metal that is soft enough to be easily scratched with a house key) or if you see signs of corrosion (frequent leaks, rust-colored water), you may want to have your water tested by a state-certified laboratory. Medford has one state-certified laboratory. Neilson Research Corporation, 245 S. Grape St.; 541-770-5678.  
 

How is our water tested for lead?

MWC fully complies with all state and federal regulations for lead and copper testing. The EPA Lead and Copper Rule requires MWC to test for lead every three years at 30 homes built in the early 1980s. These homes were designated as being at risk for lead in water because they were among the last homes constructed using lead solder to join copper pipes.
 
Under the Lead and Copper Rule, if 10 percent of water samples return lead levels of over 15 parts per billion (referred to as the “action level”), a water provider is required to take certain actions to reduce lead exposure.  It should be noted that MWC has never had a single home test over the action level for lead since monitoring began in 1991.

Lead and copper testing results from the most recent test in 2016 are available here.

Lead levels in your drinking water are likely to be highest if:
  • Your home has faucets or fittings of brass, which contains some lead.
     
  • Your home was built before 1986 and has copper pipes with lead solder.
     
  • Your home has a lead service line that connects the water meter (typically located under the sidewalk in front of your house) to your home’s internal plumbing.

How can I reduce my exposure to lead in my drinking water?

There are many steps you can take to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water, but if you have lead service lines, the best step you can take is to have them replaced. In addition:
  • Run your water to flush out lead. If water has not been used for several hours, such as in the morning or after returning from work or school, run taps for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, or until it becomes colder, before cooking or drinking. This will flush water that has been sitting in pipes. (Conservation tip: If you run sprinklers, wash a load of laundry or shower first, you will not need to run the tap as long. Or, consider catching the flushed tap water for plants or some other household use such as cleaning.)
     
  • Periodically remove and clean the faucet screen/aerator. Particles containing lead from solder or household plumbing can become trapped in your faucet aerator. Occasional cleaning will remove these particles and reduce your exposure to lead.
     
  • Always use cold water for cooking and drinking. Lead dissolves more easily into hot water, so don’t use water from the hot water tap to make baby formula, or for cooking or drinking.
     
  • Consider buying low-lead faucets. As of January 2014, all pipes, fittings and fixtures are required to contain less than 0.25% lead, which is termed “lead-free.” In addition to seeking out products with the lowest lead content, fixtures with the WaterSense® label will maximize water savings.
     
  • Consider investing in a filter. Before you buy, confirm the filter reduces lead – not all filters do. Remember that bacteria and other contaminants can collect in filters if not properly maintained, making water quality worse, not better. For water filter performance standards, contact NSF International at 1-800-673-8010.
     
  • Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.

How can I learn more?

Have questions? Contact Water Quality at 541-774-2430.

Read MWC’s Consumer Confidence Report and Water Quality Analyses for more information on your water quality.

EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline: 1-800-426-4791

National Lead Information Center: 1-800-424-LEAD

 



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