Mt. Bachelor: Drinking water re-tested, lead levels safe

Deschutes Co. says earlier test results in error

MT. BACHELOR, Ore. - (Updated with resort info about initial test results, what occurred since)

Mt. Bachelor’s drinking water is safe, resort and Deschutes County Environmental Health officials confirmed Sunday, adding that earlier tests showing higher lead levels were found to be in error.

The resort said recent water test results indicated that the amount of lead in Mt. Bachelor’s public water is undetected or well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb).

Last Sept. 14, as part of Mt. Bachelor’s regular water system monitoring, resort staff collected water samples from 10 locations around the resort, officials said in a news release Sunday.

The initial results from two of those locations, a water-filling station at the Nordic lodge and a kitchen faucet in the Junior Race Center, showed readings higher than the 15 parts per billion action level set by the EPA.

The resort said the initial September test at the Nordic lodge had a result of 17 ppb, while the Race Center kitchen's September test showed 29 ppb of lead, nearly twice the EPA's action level.

Based on the results of these readings, Mt. Bachelor said it worked with Deschutes County Environmental Health to determine next steps, including remediation and notification. These steps included re-testing the affected locations, as well as additional locations around the resort.

Second-round test samples were conducted on Jan. 30, and the results showed no detectable lead at the Nordic lodge location. At the Race Center location, the test showed a lead reading of 2 ppb, well below the EPA’s action level.

Once the second round of test results were received, Mt. Bachelor placed required written notifications at publicly-visible locations inside its lodge facilities.

In a statement to Mt. Bachelor, Deschutes County Environmental Health officials expressed their opinion that the September 2016 test data were erroneous, resulting from a lack of normal use - prior to collecting the water samples.

In both locations, the water sat dormant for several months during the summer, when the buildings were closed and vacant.

"Officials believe the two elevated results were due to this error in sampling methodology and do not constitute a public health hazard," the announcement said.

A follow-up test of 20 Mt. Bachelor locations conducted on Jan. 30 confirmed that theory. The results from every location, including the two previously affected, showed either non-detectable lead or readings well below the EPA’s action level.

Mt. Bachelor officials maintained that public health was never at risk, and its water is clean and is safe to drink.

“The safety of our employees and guests is paramount,” said John McLeod, Mt. Bachelor’s president and general manager. “I am pleased to see that the more extensive testing process conducted in response to the initial reading confirms that our water is perfectly safe to drink.”

The resort said it will continue to test its water at routine intervals as prescribed by county, state and federal guidelines.

The resort said the initial September test at the Nordic lodge had a result of 17 ppb, just above the EPA's "action level" for lead of 15 ppb. The Race Center kitchen's September test showed 29 ppb of lead, nearly twice the action level, but only 2 ppb in the January re-test.

Drew Jackson, Mt. Bachelor's director of sales and marketing, told NewsChannel 21 the resort was "communicating back and forth" with the county health officials from October through early December about how to proceed .

"As part of this unofficial appeal process, we asked if we could have the results invalidated, based on our realization that we accidentally tested water that had been sitting dormant in the pipes for so long," Jackson said by email.

"We never had a violation prior to this test, and there isn't any lead in our source water, so we were very confident that a re-test under the proper testing conditions would produce a clean result -- similar to past results.

“In mid-December, we learned that the results would not be invalidated, but we could submit new samples in January, after the start of the new year and the beginning of a new testing period," Jackson added.

"In hindsight, we should have posted notices at the affected locations starting in mid-December," he said. " It took us until late January to post them. And although the end result showed that there never was any actual public health threat, which was our strong belief all throughout the process, we should have publicly posted this information earlier than we did."

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