Blumenauer on lead in water: ‘Not the finest moment’

Two employees have also been placed on paid administrative leave

Rep. Earl Blumenauer in Portland, June 3, 2016 (KOIN)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer in Portland, June 3, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — US Congressman Earl Blumenauer is back home in Oregon this week where he has watched the Portland Public Schools lead crisis unfold first hand.

On Friday, he met with students at Earl Boyles Elementary School in the David Douglas District to talk about the importance of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. But he tells KOIN 6 News he is also concerned about aging water infrastructure that is causing the lead problem.

The EPA’s website says no level of lead found in drinking water is safe.

A water fountain at Creston School in Portland, May 30, 2016 (KOIN)
A water fountain at Creston School in Portland, May 30, 2016 (KOIN)

Blumenauer is also disappointed with how PPS handled the situation with parents and the how it handled the results, calling it “not a scene that inspired confidence.”

He is glad the district is taking personnel action and putting 2 administrators on leave.

“I’m hopeful that people learn from this experience and that it doesn’t happen again because we can’t afford ambiguity,” Blumenauer says. “We don’t want people tripping over themselves, we don’t want things dribbling out, people who should know need to know and this story needs to be said with more authority and confidence. This was not the finest moment but I hope we can build off this.”

The EPA also says there is no federal law requiring testing of drinking water in schools and child care facilities. Blumenauer said he was working with US Rep. Jackie Speier to have a voluntary federal testing program before they found out about what’s going on in PPS.

Part of the same bill would make school testing mandatory only for states that opt into the voluntary grant program he’s working on. He said that would avoid creating an unconstitutional mandate.

“I want the federal government to do a better job of dealing with water infrastructure generally,” Blumenauer said. “This is reaching crisis proportions in a whole host of areas and its not just lead.”

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