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Homeowners worried after lead found at schools

EUGENE — After drinking water at several public school buildings in Eugene tested positive for elevated levels of lead, homeowners in the area have expressed concern that their homes might also have tainted water.

About 72 percent of all homes in Lane County were built before 1986, the year the use of lead-based pipes was banned, The Register-Guard reported. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says homes built before then are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder.

The Eugene Water & Electric Board, which provides water for most of the area, is not required to test plumbing or water quality inside private homes.

Officials suggest that if homeowners are concerned they should test their water at a state-certified lab.

Board spokesman Joe Harwood said tests typically cost about $30 and a list of labs can be found on the board website. Concerned residents can also call or email the EWEB water quality office for more information.

For ways to deal with lead levels other than replacing pipes, Harwood said running water can help. Water that's been sitting in pipes overnight or for long periods of time is much more likely to contain high levels of lead.

"The single most important thing folks can do is flush their water pipes," Harwood said. "First thing in the morning and when you get home from work or school, let the tap run for two or three minutes or until the water is cold."

Drinking water can also be contaminated with lead from municipal underground pipes that route water from water mains to water meters and into homes but Harwood said that is unlikely.

"We removed all lead service lines that we know of," Harwood said. "We're pretty sure we've gotten everything."