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Portland State University Finds Elevated Lead Levels in the Pipes of Four Residence Halls

The university is offering bottled water to students.

Students living in four Portland State University residence halls learned on Wednesday that some of their building's pipes contain levels of lead that exceed federal standards.

The notice, which was sent to residents in the Parkway, Blackstone, Stratford and King Albert buildings, said that eight rooms in the four buildings built between 1927 and 1932 have faucets above the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion. The rooms with the faucets are unoccupied this summer.

"These results are not unusual for older buildings…These faucets are being replaced starting August 3. Once faucets are replaced, we will continue to test for lead," says the notice, signed by Mike Walsh, executive director of housing and residence life on PSU's campus.

The notice alerts students living in the four residence halls that if they prefer to use bottled water for drinking and cooking, the university has purchased up to two liters per day per student.

The discovery follows a summer of alarming lead results across Portland Public Schools. The resulting furor over Superintendent Carole Smith's lack of oversight led to her immediate resignation in July.

PSU says these tests had nothing to to do with PPS' fiasco.

"We've been testing all the buildings on campus," Walsh tells WW. "It's really more coincidental than anything else."

The lead results are from random testing of sample rooms in the residence halls, says another notice posted by University Communications.

"PSU will expedite testing of all kitchen and batch faucets in all 10 residence halls, giving top priority to the four halls where lead was a factor."

Walsh says that PSU will test all sink and faucets in residence halls, and will replace fixtures based on lead results.

"We have people moving on the 17th of September," Walsh says "We're trying to get it all done by then. In most of our buildings we aren't actually worried. The test came back negative in all of our random tests everywhere else, but we are going to do everything."