Lead in Drinking Water

Did you know that the City of Oregon City is required to sample for Lead and Copper in our water distribution system every 3 years? Lead was a common service line material used in some parts of the country, but it has not been documented as an often-used material for water services in the Pacific Northwest. It was, however, used in plumbing fixtures which can leave traces of lead in drinking water.

In compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2008 revision of the Lead and Copper Rule, the City's Lead and Copper sampling sites consist of single-family structures with copper pipes with lead solder installed after 1982 (but before the effective date of Oregon's lead ban which was 1985) or contain lead pipes and/or that are served by a lead service line. In 1986, Congress banned the use of lead material in plumbing but allowed existing pipes to remain in service.

Identify Your Service Line

Revised Lead & Copper Rule 2021

In December 2021, the EPA published the revised Lead and Copper Rule. A requirement of the updated rule is for water suppliers to create a public-facing map of all service lines and pipe materials within the city's service area. The City of Oregon City currently has over 11,000 water services in our distribution system. This is a heavy lift for City staff, and given our limited resources, we are asking the community to help us comply with the new rule. City staff are confident that there are no lead service lines in our service area. We need your help in documenting service lines and completing the map.

Please refer to our How to Identify Pipe Material section to help you determine what type of pipe material you have entering your house. The Interactive Links to Identifying Pipe Material section on this page lists interactive websites to help identify pipe materials. Once you have identified your pipe material, or if you already know your pipe material, please use the webform to submit the information to our Water Quality staff. If possible, please include three photographs of where your service line enters your house for staff to use in the case of a discrepancy. You can also send your pipe material information and photographs via email to Public Works.

How Lead Gets in the Water

Water leaving the treatment plant and traveling through water mains is almost always free of lead. However, lead is sometimes present in lateral pipes connecting older homes to the water system, or in fixtures and home plumbing. Studies have shown that most lead in drinking water is the result of the corrosive action of water on home plumbing, and homes of a certain age are most susceptible. South Fork Water Board adjusts the water's chemistry at the treatment plant to minimize the possibility of lead dissolving into the water, but there are additional steps you can take at home. Sources of lead in home plumbing and fixtures include:

  • Copper Pipe with Lead Solder
  • Faucets and fixtures
  • Galvanized Pipe
  • Lead Goose Necks and Pigtails that connect your pipes to the water meter

Health Effects of Lead

Exposure to lead in drinking water can cause serious health effects in all age groups. Infants and children can have decreases in IQ and attention span. Lead exposure can lead to new learning and behavior problems or exacerbate existing learning and behavior problems. The children of women who are exposed to lead before or during pregnancy can have increased risk of these adverse health effects. Adults can have increased risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney, or nervous system problems. See the EPA's website, where you can read more about the health effects of lead.

What We Do to Protect Your Water

The South Fork Water Board (SFWB) is a wholesale water provider to the cities of Oregon City and West Linn. SFWB treats water from the lower Clackamas River to produce a high-quality water for domestic and industrial purposes. The treatment process optimizes practices that manipulate alkalinity and pH levels of the finished water to reduce the potential for lead to leach within the finished water distribution system. The result is clean and safe drinking water for our customers. Find out more about South Fork Water Board.

How to Reduce Lead in Your Drinking Water

There are steps you can take right away to reduce the possibility of lead in your water.

  • Run the Tap Before Use - Lead levels are likely at their highest when water has been sitting in the pipe for several hours. Clear this water from your pipes by running the cold water for several minutes, which allows you to draw fresh water from the water main. Please remember to be water-wise and try not to waste water. You can use this water on house plants or to flush toilets.
  • Clean Aerators - Aerators are small attachments at the tips of faucets that regulate the flow of water. They can collect small particles of lead in their screens. It's a good idea to remove your aerators at least monthly and clean them out.
  • Use Cold Water for Drinking and Cooking - Always cook and prepare baby formula with cold water, because hot water dissolves lead more quickly, resulting in higher levels in water.
  • Change Out Old Fixtures - Plumbing regulations now stipulate that all fixtures must be manufactured lead-free. Consider installing new fixtures and/or pipes to eliminate sources of exposure.
  • Filter the Water - Many home water filters are effective at removing lead. If you purchase a filter, make sure it is certified for lead removal and that you maintain it properly. Find out more on filter certification.
  • Do Not Boil Water - Boiling water will not remove lead from the water.

How to Identify My Pipe Material

Step 1 - Locating Where the Service Line Enters Your House

This is typically found in the basement or crawl space and could also be located near the water heater or the washing machine. A shut-off valve is installed on the pipe after the point of entry.

Identify a test area on the pipe between the point where it enters the building and the valve. If the pipe is covered or wrapped, expose a small area of metal.

Step 2 - Perform the Scratch & Magnet Test & Identify the Service Line Material

  • Scratch Test - Use a flathead screwdriver or a coin to perform a scratch test
  • Magnet Test - Use a refrigerator magnet to perform the magnet test
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Each type of pipe will produce a different type of scratch, react differently to the magnet, and make a unique noise when tapped with your screwdriver or coin. Follow these instructions to help you identify your service line material:

Copper or Brass

  • Copper PipeScratch Test - Scraped area is like a copper penny
  • Magnet Test - Magnet will not stick
  • Tap Test - Tapping sound is metallic and ringing
  • Threads - No threads
  • Copper pipes could be bluish in appearance

Galvanized Pipe

  • Galvanized PipeScratch Test - Scraped area remains dull silver or gray
  • Magnet Test - Magnet will stick
  • Tap Test - Tapping sound is metallic and ringing
  • Threads - Has threads

Lead Pipe

  • Lead PipeScratch Test - Scrapes easily to shiny bright silver
  • Magnet Test - Magnet will not stick
  • Tap Test - Tapping sound is dull
  • Threads - No threads
  • Bulbous where connects to pipe or shutoff


  • Plastic PipeScratch Test - Scrape feels dull and not metallic
  • Magnet Test - Magnet will not stick
  • Tap Test - Tapping sound is dull like plastic
  • Threads - No threads
  • Could be any number of colors (white, red, blue, clear)

Submit Your Service Line Material

Service Line Inventory Map

Coming October 2024!

Oregon City Annual Water Quality Reports Page

See the annual Consumer Confidence Reports also known as Water Quality Reports.

Please complete the webform about your water service to help us continue to be an Outstanding Performer in our compliance with the State. The city is required to have the service line inventory map completed by October 2024. The citizens of Oregon City have a strong sense of Community and we are excited to work with our customers to get the map completed on time!

Feel free to call the Water Quality Department at 971-204-4600 with questions about the Lead and Copper Rule, how to identify your pipe material, the webform, or email the Water Division.

If you have any questions or need help identifying your pipes, give us a call!