The University has removed three drinking fountains from service in Wilson Library after tests found detectable levels of lead in the water due to the components in those fountains. Other drinking fountains in the building were tested, showed no detectable levels of lead and remain in operation because the pipes in the building were not impacted.
As a precaution, staff from Environment, Health and Safety will test other campus drinking fountains that potentially contain similar lead components and have not been tested recently to check for lead. While we do not believe this is a widespread issue, if other fountains are found to have detectable levels in the water, they will be removed from service immediately.
Testing Process and Results
The University uses the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sampling protocol for testing fixtures in K-12 schools. This protocol involves collecting a first draw sample in the morning, followed by a flushing protocol to clear stagnant water from the lines. EHS staff return in the afternoon to collect another sample for comparison with the first draw sample to determine the effect of flushing. The fixture is out of service during sampling. EHS compares the results to the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) but will take action if there is any detectable lead.
Below are the test results from the three fountains in Wilson Library:
- 3rd floor historic drinking fountain (right side of hallway)
- First draw: 15.8 ppb
- Second draw: 9 ppb
- 3rd floor historic drinking fountain (left side of hallway)
- First draw: 3.5 ppb
- Second draw: 3.1 ppb
- 2nd floor drinking fountain (located adjacent to room 506)
- First draw: non-detectable
- Second draw: 185 ppb*
*The lab reanalyzed this sample and the second result was 193 ppb.
For reference purposes, 0.015 mg/L, or 15 ppb, is the level at which the EPA requires public water systems to deliver education materials and to take action to reduce the concentration of lead in the water.
The investigation into the cause of detectable levels of lead in these fixtures is on-going, but in general, lead in drinking water can be attributed to three sources: lead pipes, lead solder and lead brass fittings. Lead can enter drinking water from these sources due to corrosion of these plumbing materials, and the pipes of the building are not impacted.
Information about the effects of lead in water can be found on the CDC’s website and on the EPA’s website. Questions about the ongoing investigation can be directed to the Environment, Health and Safety Department at 919-962-5507. If you are an employee who is pregnant or breast feeding or have further concerns, please contact the University Employee Occupational Health Clinic at 919-966-9119. If you are a student and have concerns, please contact Campus Health at 919-966-2281.