Elevated levels of lead in water in several buildings

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by Sotirios Doolen

On Jan 23, the Drew community received a campus-wide email from Greg Smith,  the Interim Associate Vice President for Facilities, stating that tests to Drew’s water supply found elevated levels of lead in several buildings on campus. The affected buildings include Gilbert House (which hosts the History and Sociology Departments), Smith House (home of the Political Science Department), the S.W. Browne Hall and the book storage areas of the Rose Library. No residential buildings were reportedly affected although they have not been tested since August.

The University stated in the email it will be providing bottled water coolers to Gilbert House, Smith House, and the Rose Library. They also plan to run tests in the United Methodist Church, which houses the University’s Child Care Center. The email stressed that the University is taking immediate measures to rectify the situation, including further testing to discover the scope of the issue and adding certified lead filters to the main incoming water lines to each affected building. All of the testing and possible repairs are being done in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

Chatham Studer (‘19) said of the email, “I am definitely concerned about elevated levels of lead in the water, however, I’m glad they are telling us early as opposed to what they did with the hot water in the Commons and how long they took to fix that. I was initially worried seeing the subject line of the email, but after seeing the problem was isolated to those four buildings, I’m feeling pretty confident that they will fix it.”

Three days after the original email, Smith sent another campus-wide email as a response to the many students on campus that replied to him asking for more clarification. The new memo goes into the details of the lead findings, stating that federal guidelines call for action to be taking if there is found to be 15 micrograms of lead per liter or more in the tested water. After testing these areas voluntarily and sending the samples to an independent lab they found that there was 16.1 ug/L and 20.5 ug/L in Gilbert House and Smith House, respectively, while there were 88.1 ug/L in the Rose Library and and 167 ug/L in SW Bowne. In the email, Smith also wrote that, “This week we collected new samples from each sink in these buildings and they are currently at the lab to be tested. We anticipate receiving the results around Jan 27. We will follow up with additional information at that time. The university is continuing to treat this issue with the utmost urgency and is prepared to remediate appropriately based on the outcomes of these tests.”


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