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Portland Parks Director Needs to ‘Get’ that Lead Contaminated Drinking Water is Dangerous…or Quit His Job


A recent review of the Portland Parks and Recreation’s (PPR) handling of high levels of lead contamination in the drinking fountains at the Multnomah Arts Center concluded that the agency failed for years in its duty to protect citizens, especially kids, from the contamination. In a nutshell, the review found that PPR was aware since at least 2013 that lead levels in the water at several of the drinking fountains were unacceptably high, according to EPA standards, but ignored those results. The review also found other evidence of PPR’s shocking disregard of the health threats posed by the lead-contaminated water, including:

· PPR staff’s ignoring of a directive to replace lead plumbing;

· tests taken in 2015 specifically to determine if there was lead contamination in the water were never analyzed;

· staff canceled work orders for the installation of water filters that would eliminate or reduce lead content in the water;

· April 2016 PPR records were changed to show that work had been done to remedy the lead problem, but there is no record to show that this work had actually been done.

Read the full article here:

Perhaps even worse than all of this, though, is the public statement attributed earlier this week to PPR Director, Mike Abbate, who downplayed the significance of lead in the drinking water. According to Abbate:

“As we look at lead in water and evaluate it as a public health risk, it’s not nearly as significant an issue as other kinds of environmental exposures.” (my emphasis)

What!? Lead contamination in Portland drinking water is not that big of a deal because it won’t hurt kids as badly or quickly as other toxins!? Lead contamination should be tolerated…. because there’s something worse?

This sounds like the excuse offered by some industrial polluter from the early 20th century, before the many and serious health dangers from exposure to lead became known. For the benefit of Mr. Abbate, and the visitors to his Multnomah Arts Center that may be threatened by his apparent ignorance, our National Institute of Health has said this for many years about the dangers of lead in our drinking water and environment:

(1) “No amount of lead is safe. Eliminating all lead exposure in our environment is our best course of action.” (my emphasis).

(2) The following health issues in children exposed to lead have been reported:

  • decreased academic achievement
  • decreased hearing
  • lower IQ scores
  • delayed puberty
  • decreases in postnatal growth
  • increases in behavioral problems and attention-related disorders

(3) The following health risks for adults exposed to lead have been reported:

  • nerve disorders
  • cardiovascular effects
  • decreased kidney function
  • memory or concentration problems
  • fertility problems
  • increased blood pressure and hypertension
  • increased incidences of essential tremors

(Read about the health risks of lead exposure here:

The bottom line here? Lead in drinking water is dangerous. Mr. Abbate needs to “get” that, ASAP. Or he needs to step aside, in favor of someone who does.

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