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Vote set for next week on $664,930 contract to determine best treatment option.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Although Bull Run water has long been considered very clean, it may need to be treated with chemicals to reduce lead in homes and businesses.After taking testimony about the potential benefits and risks of treating Portland's water to reduce lead, the City Council set a vote on a pilot program to determine the best approach next week.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has directed the city to reduce the amount of lead that leeches out of pipes and fixtures in older homes and buildings. That would most likely require the city to add chemicals to the water that comes from the Bull Run Watershed and groundwater wells along the Columbia River, Portland's two water sources.

During a Wednesday hearing, the council heard that any amount of lead exposure is potentially dangerous, especially to young children. But the council also heard that industries that use large quantities of water, like breweries, are concerned any changes could alter the character of the water and their products. And some noted the cost of building a treatment plant, currently estimated at up to $20 million.

The council is considering awarding a $664,930 contract to the Confluence Engineering Group to design a Corrosion Control Treatment Pilot Project. The ordinance was submitted by Commissioner Nick Fish, who is in charge of the Portland Water Bureau. The bureau would need to return to the council to request such a plant be built, which would trigger additional public hearings before a final decision is made.

You can read the ordinance here.

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