After follow-up lead testing conducted by a third party consultant found elevated lead levels in three water sources in Georgetown University buildings, the university installed water filters in three White-Gravenor Hall sinks.
After graduate students discovered concentrations of lead in multiple water sources earlier this month, the Office of Environmental Health & Safety contracted with an unspecified third party consultant to collect and test water samples in dozens of locations inside five campus buildings, according to university spokesperson Rachel Pugh. The university did not specify which buildings beyond White-Gravenor were tested.
Three sinks on campus tested above detection limits, according to Pugh. The detection limit of lead designates the minimum measured concentration of a substance that can be confidently reported as distinguishable from blank results, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Following the discovery of these elevated levels, the university installed filters in one sink on the fourth floor and two sinks on the fifth floor of White-Gravenor, according to Pugh. Besides these sinks, other locations tested by EH&S yielded undetectable lead concentrations, Pugh said.
“All other locations tested, including locations previously tested by graduate students, and all water fountains tested, showed levels that were below detection limits,” Pugh wrote in an email to The Hoya.
EH&S will continue water testing in other buildings as appropriate, according to Pugh.
Earlier this month three second year masters students, Julie Oh, Tianze Pan and Misti Persaud, conducted a lead study under the advisement of Professor YuYe Tong. The students are a part of Georgetown’s environmental metrology and policy program, which focuses on measurements science of environmental toxic chemicals resulting policymaking.
The graduate team tested water from 11 buildings on campus: White-Gravenor Hall, Lauinger Library, O’Donovan Hall, the New South Hall facilities office, Reiss Science Building, the Intercultural Center, Copley Hall, the Car Barn and Regents Hall. Around 75% of the water sources tested yielded lead counts below 1 parts per billion, which is below the EPA’s action level of 15 ppb. However, several of the water sources tested in the study, specifically water sources in Reiss, the New South facilities office and White-Gravenor, showed lead counts near the suggested EPA action level, and one tested above the action level.
While water filters may or may not effectively control the lead quantity without further study, they would presumptively lower the concentration levels, according to Tong.
“As to whether such filters are enough to reduce the concentration of lead and keep it at lower than the EPA’s action level, only a scientific measurement can tell,” he wrote in an email to The Hoya.
In the original study, one sink on the fifth floor of White-Gravenor concluded a lead concentration of 18.02 ppb in sample one, a number above the 15 ppb action level, and 12.72 ppb in sample two. Elevated levels, but not levels that exceeded the action level set by the EPA, were also found within the Office of Planning and Facilities Management, located on the lower level of New South, with samples that yielded a lead concentration of 13.67 ppb.
The university did not work directly with Tong, and he has not seen the results of the measurements taken by EH&S, Tong wrote in an email to The Hoya. However, the graduate student study did prompt EH&S’ follow up testing, according to Tong.
“I knew for a fact that the Office of Environmental Health and Safety was informed of Misti et al’s results (not by me) which led them to conduct some additional water quality measurements around the campus,” wrote Dr. Tong in an email to The Hoya.
To resolve the lead problem, the university should replace lead piping on campus and be transparent with students and faculty about the potential contamination, Persaud, one of the graduate students who worked on the original study, wrote in an email to The Hoya earlier this month.
Despite the lead study’s findings, the original team will not proceed with more lead research this semester following the first study, according to Persaud.
“As of now we are not concentrated on the lead study for this semester,” Persaud wrote in an email to The Hoya this week. “However we are hoping that in the future the program continues this study to evaluate water levels of buildings with high lead levels and/or test new buildings.”