Lead is a common contaminant of drinking water due to its widespread use as a solder to connect copper pipes. A few old water pipes were actually made of lead, and some water coolers were manufactured with reservoir tanks lined with lead.
Children are most susceptible to the effects of lead exposure. Ingestion of lead can cause physical and mental development problems, and has been linked to learning and attention deficit disabilities. Adults can develop kidney problems or high blood pressure as a result of lead exposure.
Lead-containing materials were banned for use in drinking water systems by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1987. In 1989, the University identified and replaced all water coolers with lead-lined reservoir tanks.
Contamination of drinking water with lead was reported in certain metropolitan Washington water supplies this past year. In an effort to determine if systemic contamination also exists at the University, the Facilities Council funded a comprehensive testing of the drinking water system on campus. Representative samples from nearly all buildings were collected by the Departments of Environmental Safety & Facilities Management, and forwarded to independent laboratories for analysis. The test results are available for review.
Of the 194 buildings tested, only 4 had lead concentrations that are being addressed by the affected facilities-managing departments. The test results indicate that there is no systemic lead contamination in the University water supply.
Lead in water levels in excess of 20 parts per billion (ppb) will be addressed by the University. The 20 ppb limit is established by the EPA as the maximum lead concentration permitted in water at day care facilities and schools. The University obtains its drinking water from Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) who is ultimately responsible for the quality of water generated.