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EWEB exceeds water quality standards again

May 09, 2022

2021 EWEB Community Confidence Report

EWEB exceeded drinking water safety standards in 2021 for every type of contaminant regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Oregon Health Authority. The utility has never failed to meet the standards.

Details on the quality of EWEB’s drinking water can be found in the 2021 Consumer Confidence Report issued today.

“We’ve never been out of compliance for drinking water standards. This pattern of excellence repeats year after year after year, and we couldn’t be prouder of the fact that we get to serve this ultra-clean water to our customer-owners,” said Susan Fricke, EWEB’s water resources and quality assurance supervisor. “We’ve got great water here and we’re going to keep it that way.”

Some of the credit goes both to long-term planning efforts aimed at protecting Eugene’s water at the source, and to water treatment plant operators who diligently monitor levels of turbidity, organic compounds, mineral byproducts and other potential contaminants in the water as it comes into the Hayden Bridge Water Treatment Plant, adjusting various treatment strategies to remove contaminants.

“We have staff members working in the plant 24 hours a day, 365 days a year who are making adjustments and fine-tuning the water treatment so that the water that we deliver to customers is purified in the most cost-effective and efficient way,” Fricke said. 

Additional credit goes to the distribution operators who take treated drinking water and move it through 800 miles of pipe, and to water quality specialists who take 85,000 samples each year to guarantee Eugene’s drinking water is safe and sanitary all the way to each home and business.

EWEB’s restoration work in the Holiday Farm Fire burn area has been crucial to protecting water quality in the McKenzie River watershed. Work through Pure Water Partners has included replanting trees and other native vegetation, removing invasive species, erosion control, mulching and fuels reduction. EWEB is also working with partners on large-scale restoration projects that help trap sediment, slow down water, restore watershed function and enhance habitat for fish and wildlife species.

Last year, EWEB’s Board of Commissioners approved a new program to pay for wildfire restoration projects through a flat fee temporarily assessed on all water customers. The monthly fee took effect in mid-2021 and will last for 5 years, paying for restoration work in the watershed that keeps EWEB water clean.

“Source water protection is a big part of how we make sure the water is clean. We keep an eye on trends throughout the watershed so we can address changes early on,” Fricke said. “We’re extremely grateful to our customer-owners for allocating funding every month to protect our watershed.”

A few additional water projects are on the horizon for EWEB. A second water treatment plant is planned for the Willamette River and would give EWEB a crucial second source of water. Currently, among the 20 largest cities in the Northwest, EWEB is the only one with just one source of drinking water, the McKenzie River. A backup supply is crucial for resilience in case a natural or human-caused disaster knocks EWEB’s treatment system offline. 

EWEB is also bolstering resilience to disasters by upgrading and diversifying our water storage tanks, and by making plans for two additional emergency water distribution sites, bringing the total to seven.

In many regions of the country, lead contamination is a primary concern for water distribution systems. EWEB is fortunate, however, to not have any known lead service lines. EWEB meets all lead standards, but customers should still be aware that old pipes and faucet fixtures in their homes can leach lead into their household’s water.

“We’re really lucky here in Eugene that we don’t have to deal with a large system of lead pipes and the problems that could cause,” Fricke said. “Customers should still know that they could be introducing lead to their own water, possibly through lead solder on copper pipes made before 1986 and brass fixtures and faucets made before 2014.”

Customers can take a few proactive steps in their homes to make sure they’re not introducing lead to their water, including: 

  • Use only cold water to drink, cook and make baby formula, since hot water makes it easier for lead to leach from the pipes into the drinking water. 
  • Clean your aerator (the screen on the tip of your faucet) every few months because it can trap particles that contain lead.  
  • Consider buying new low-lead fixtures, fittings and pipes, which since 2014 have been required to contain less than 0.25% lead.
  • Consider using a water filter and follow all filter maintenance instructions to keep the water safe.
  • If you haven’t used your faucet for several hours, run the water for 30 seconds to flush any contaminates that may have accumulated in the static water.

Additional tips and information can be found on the EPA’s website. Customers concerned about lead in their water may wish to have your water tested. Learn more about how to have your tap water tested for lead.