Elevated lead levels found in drinking water on campus

Taken from The South End

Amanda Rahn | Posted: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 7:00 am

On May 27, the President’s Office announced that two Wayne State buildings, the College of Education building and the Meyer L. Prentis Cancer Center building, were found to have lead levels above the EPA action level in several water fountains.

The EPA action level for drinking water is 15 parts per billion. The affected fountains ranged in lead quantity from just over 15 ppb to 30 ppb.

Michael Wright, vice president of marketing and communications and Chief of Staff, said the university mobilized quickly to immediately shut off water to affected fountains and created a plan to test the remaining WSU buildings.

“The Office of Environmental Health and Safety has been working with Facility Planning and Management so that they can begin to draw one liter samples from all the other buildings,” he said. “Now, because the testing facilities we use don’t have unlimited capacity, they’re prioritizing these based on population and whether children are present.”

So far, 11 campus buildings have been tested.

“These 11 buildings that have been tested were tested because residents of the building asked that they be tested, so right now it’s been reaction to inquiry,” Wright said. “Henceforth, it will be because since we found lead somewhere, we want to make sure it’s nowhere. We’re going to be looking at every building site.”

Matthew Miller, a senior accounting major, said he was disappointed when he heard lead had been found in the drinking water on campus.

“I expect better from a prestigious university. I expect them to provide clean water for their students, staff and faculty, [and] I’m a strong believer in government institutions, but I think lately they’ve been letting people down,” said Miller. “[Access to clean water is] a prevalent thing in people’s minds, and when that’s disrupted, mistrust is bred.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to lead in adults can result in cardiovascular effects, decreased kidney function and reproductive problems for both men and women.

The university is offering free blood tests at the Campus Health Center for concerned students who have been exposed to the affected fountains. The center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

16 students have had their blood tested at the center thus far.

Miller has consumed water from the Meyer L. Prentis Cancer Center building and said he would want to get his blood tested as a precaution.

Elizabeth Richert, a senior studying accounting, said that while she knows some students who have had their blood tested at the health center, she does not plan to be tested as she has not had contact with the affected buildings.

“I’m sure if I drank from one of the buildings, I would probably look into it, but what do you do with that information once you find out?” said Richert.

To stay up to date on the issue, the university has created a page that will be updated as more information becomes available.

“We’re going to update the website on a regular basis,” said Wright. “The FAQs will build as we have more questions.”

“We want everybody to know about this. This is purely about safety for students, faculty, staff and administration.”

The site can be viewed here and the Campus Health Center can be reached at 313-577-5041 to make an appointment for a free blood test.


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