OYA Tests Water in Facilities for Lead and Copper

Learn the results of OYA’s latest round of water tests in our facilities.

In October, Oregon Youth Authority worked with a contractor to collect samples from all water taps used for drinking or cooking at all of our youth correctional and youth transitional facilities. The purpose was to test the water for lead and copper.

OYA is required by law to do these tests every six years. However, we chose to do it three years after our last round of tests as a health protective measure.

What We are Looking For

We are looking for taps that show levels of lead or copper above the “action level” set by the federal government.

All water has some lead and copper in it. But if there is more than 15 parts per billion (ppb) of lead, or more than 1.3 parts per million (ppm) of copper, then we are required to take immediate action. This means taking the tap out of service for drinking and cooking, and finding a way to fix the issue.

New Test Results

We began receiving initial test results this month. So far, this is what we have learned. Click on the link for each facility to view their full test results.

Camp Florence

Out of 12 taps tested, all of the results were normal for lead. However, two showed a level of copper where we need to take immediate action. Read More

Camp Riverbend

Out of the 31 taps tested, one showed a level of lead where we need to take immediate action. This tap was a sink in a restroom that had not been used for over a year and a half. All taps were below the action level for copper. Read More

Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility and Young Women’s Transition Program (YWTP)

**UPDATED 11/25/20: Out of the 122 taps tested at this site, two showed a level of lead where we need to take immediate action. One tap was inside the county detention building attached to the Oak Creek site, which is not used by Oak Creek or YWTP youth. The other was a staff restroom sink in the Enrichment Center, which is not accessible to youth. Read More

MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility

Out of the 409 taps tested, 41 showed a level of lead where we need to take immediate action. One of those that was elevated for lead also tested above the action level for copper. Read More

Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility

Out of the 81 taps tested, five showed levels of lead where we need to take immediate action. All of them were below the action level for copper. Read More

Eastern Oregon YCF

None of the 56 taps we tested showed elevated levels of lead or copper. Read More

Tillamook YCF and Camp Tillamook

Results coming soon.

What We Are Doing About the Elevated Taps

As soon as we learned each facility’s test results, we posted signs on the taps that exceeded the action levels, warning that people should not use those taps for drinking or cooking. In some cases, we also turned the taps off completely.

If any areas of the facility required bottled water, we provided it.

We are doing more tests of the water from the taps in question to help us figure out the potential source of the problem. This includes tests of the water from farther down in the pipes to see if the issue is in the pipes or at the fixture itself.

Are the Youth and Staff Safe?

The health risk is low. The state epidemiologist at the Oregon Health Authority has advised us that it’s relatively rare for water to be a source of elevated levels in the bloodstream.

However, because we value everyone’s health and safety, we are offering free voluntary lead screening tests to any current youth, staff, contractors, or volunteers who are concerned about their exposure to lead from the taps in question. Also eligible for these screening tests:

  • Youth released or transferred from an OYA facility in the 60 days before we received that facility’s test results.
  • OYA employees, volunteers, or contractors who stopped working at the facilities in question in the 60 days before we received that facility’s test results.

Information about how to request the lead screening test

Go to this webpage to see all facility test results.

More Information about Lead in Water

According to the Oregon Health Authority:

  • It is safe to shower and bathe in water that contains lead because very little, if any, lead is absorbed through skin.
  • Dishes, cooking and eating utensils, and tables are not contaminated with lead when cleaned with water that contains lead because very little water stays on these objects.
  • Laundry and general cleaning with water that contains some lead is not hazardous.
  • These tips and others may be found online in the Oregon Health Authority’s document on “Lead and drinking water”.

Photo at top by Sean Musil on Unsplash

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