Frequently Asked Questions: Elevated Water Lead Levels (Updated 10/24)

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Following test results showing elevated lead levels in water samples from student residences and campus buildings along Broad Street and College Street, Colgate has provided alternative drinking water supplies, including kitchen faucet filters, in all campus-owned buildings along Broad Street and College Street while long-term corrective action is evaluated. The health and safety of students and other Colgate community members continues to be the University’s number one priority. Here are some facts about this situation, and lead in general:

The Colgate Situation

What is the scope of the elevated lead levels?

A series of water quality tests by Colgate’s Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHS) in student residences and other campus buildings along Broad Street and College Street have shown levels of lead above EPA action levels in first-draw samples (water that has sat motionless for eight hours). However, flush samples of water that has been run for at least 30 seconds from the faucets, at all locations, show lead levels that are non-detectable or well below the EPA action level. (Read more at colgate.edu/leadtesting.)

What is Colgate doing in response?

Each impacted student residence has been fitted with kitchen faucet filters certified for lead removal, and those buildings are also being supplied with water coolers. In addition, Colgate is providing water faucet filters and water coolers to the Chenango Nursery School and all University-owned residences served by the Broad Street water supply.

An education campaign is also underway to help the Colgate community understand the potential impacts of elevated lead levels and what individuals can do to help mitigate exposure.

Have any residents tested positive for lead as a result of this situation?

No. Out of an abundance of caution, Colgate Student Health Services has coordinated blood testing for students living in affected locations who wishes to be tested, at no expense to them or their insurance.

As of October 24, 2019, we know of 38 students and a staff member who have been tested. All 39 blood tests have returned with no detectable lead levels. (Others may have chosen to be tested without notifying Colgate.)

What should students do if they think they have been exposed to lead? 

Students with concerns can contact the Student Health Services at 315-228-7750 to arrange for blood testing, at no charge.

Can students who lived in affected buildings last year be tested? May I be tested if I visited my friends there often?

Students with concerns about their exposure to drinking water in the affected locations can call Colgate Student Health Services to talk with someone about arranging testing.

How often does the University test water on campus?

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) regularly tests the campus water system for certain contaminants. The Village of Hamilton routinely tests the municipal water supply for contaminants, including lead, sharing their results with the University.

When was the last time these buildings or others were tested?

The most recent test results are from the Village of Hamilton’s 2018 Annual Drinking Water Quality Report. Their reported result for samples collected in September of 2017 was 5 ppb.

Does Colgate plan to test annually?

The University is developing a plan for periodic lead testing.

What can students living off campus and other community members do to reduce their exposure to lead in their drinking water?

Here are some tips:

  • Use only cold water for drinking, cooking and making baby formula. Boiling water does not remove lead from water.
  • Regularly clean your faucet’s screen (also known as an aerator).
  • Consider using a water filter certified to remove lead and know when it’s time to replace the filter.
  • Before drinking, flush your pipes by running your tap, taking a shower, doing laundry or a load of dishes.
  • Contact your water system to learn more about sources of lead and removing lead service lines. 

 

Temporary Alternative Water Supplies Information

How can students in affected residences report a need for additional jugs for their water dispensers? 

Custodial teams are monitoring the bottled water stations to ensure they stay replenished, but if students are in need of water in between custodial changes, they can call the facilities office at 315-228-7130 Monday-Friday 8am-4:30pm. On weekends, they can call the heating plant at 315-228-7468, but the staff asks that students make every attempt to call for refill needs during the week during business hours.

The kitchen faucet filters installed in affected residences do not allow for hot water use. Is it hygienic to wash with cold water? What alternatives are available? 

We have been unable to find lead-certified faucet-mount filters that can handle the hot temperatures that come out of taps in University buildings. According to the Centers for Disease Control, cold water is just as effective for handwashing; in a nutshell, use of soap and the amount of time spent lathering and rinsing are the crucial steps in removing bacteria.

That said, there are several alternatives. Hot water is available in bathroom faucets, and water can be heated on stovetops for washing dishes and countertops. 

Lead Safety Information

Can I drink or cook with water that has elevated lead levels? 

Not unless it is filtered. Faucet-mounted water filters, certified to remove at least 98% of lead, have been placed in the affected kitchens for drinking and cooking purposes. Bottled water provided by Colgate for the affected residences can also be used until the issue is corrected.

Can I eat food prepared in the kitchens at these residences?

Yes. Faucet-mounted water filters are a safe and effective way to reduce lead in water to levels well below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for drinking and cooking.

Can I brush my teeth at the bathroom faucets at these residences? 

Yes. According to the EPA, running tap water for at least 30 seconds, up to 2 minutes, prior to brushing teeth will flush the water in the pipes, making it safe. 

Can I wash my hands and shower? 

Yes. Washing your hands and showering are unaffected by this issue. 

Can I do laundry, and wash countertops and dishes? 

Yes. These activities are all unaffected by this issue. 

How does lead end up in water?

The most common way for lead to enter tap water is through corrosion of plumbing materials, including lead solder or brass fixtures. Additional testing will help understand where the issue may be coming from, and if it extends to any other faucets in the buildings.

 

If you have any additional questions, please reach out to healthandsafety@colgate.edu for assistance.

For further information: colgate.edu/leadtesting