Water-Quality Testing on Campus: Updates
Updated: Feb. 21, 2017; 4:30 p.m.
Testing of drinking and food-preparation water sources at all campus dining establishments was completed in mid-February. All results were well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action level for lead in water (15 parts per billion). The testing and analysis were performed by California Laboratory Services, a third-party consulting firm.
An action plan for how the University will address the testing of remaining drinking-water sources will be released in the next several days.
Updated: Feb. 7, 2017; 4:30 p.m.
Starting immediately after the last update to campus, a number of steps have been taken in regard to the water-quality testing.
Among those steps, Jill Parker, the University’s new Interim Senior Director for Risk Management Services/Chief Risk Officer, is meeting with licensed health and safety consultants to formulate an action plan to address the issues identified. This plan will be shared with the campus community as soon as possible.
In the meantime, out of an abundance of caution, all drinking-water sources that had been shut off will remain off, and bottled water will continue to be made available at the following locations: Folsom Hall; Eureka Hall, Rooms 206 and 401; AIRC, Room 2004; the Student Organizations and Leadership office on the second floor of the University Union; the Office of Admissions, Lassen Hall, Room 1102; and The WELL.
The University continues to take this matter very seriously and is working as quickly as possible to implement a solution.
Frequently Asked Questions
When did campus-wide water-quality testing start, and why?
Testing took place Jan. 9-12, 2017, shortly after Winter Break on campus. It was conducted by Dr. Jeffery Foran, chair of the Department of Environmental Studies at Sacramento State, along with Dr. Justin Miller-Schulze, Dr. Catherine Ishikawa, two graduate students, and nine undergraduate students after they received approval to broaden an experiential-learning research project to include the testing of 449 sinks, drinking fountains, and bottle-filling stations across campus.
What were the results of the testing?
The team tested “first draw” samples, meaning they were taken first thing in the morning and after a period of non-use between semesters.
Preliminary results from “first draw” samples require further testing and analysis to fully establish lead concentration levels. The additional testing and analysis will be done as soon as possible by third-party consultants.
The testing revealed that 27 samples of the 449 stations, or 6 percent, had lead concentrations at or above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action level for lead in water (15 parts per billion). Those 27 samples, plus an additional 58, for a total of 19 percent, had lead levels in excess of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tolerance level for lead in bottled water (5 ppb).
After these levels were reported to University administrators, Facilities Management immediately turned off all 85 identified sources of water. In Phase 2 of testing, the University will sample all drinking-water sources on campus.
Where on campus are the most elevated lead levels?
Eureka Hall, Folsom Hall, Placer Hall, Shasta Hall, and Sierra and Sutter residence halls immediately had their affected water sources shut off.
As part of ongoing mitigation measures, water filters have been installed at the drinking fountains in Sierra and Sutter residence halls. Those fountains will undergo further testing before they are returned to use.
What about the rest of the water sources on campus that haven’t been shut off? What were their results?
Of the 449 stations tested, 364 stations were found to have levels within the FDA tolerance for lead in bottled water (5 ppb) and remain on. The University and its consultants will sample all drinking-water sources on campus.
Have drinking and food-preparation water sources at campus dining establishments been tested? What are these test results?
A third-party consulting firm completed testing of drinking and food-preparation water sources at all campus dining establishments in mid-February. All results were found to be well below the EPA action level of 15 ppb.
What are the lead standards for water?
The EPA’s maximum contaminant level goal in drinking water is 0. At the same time, California has set a public health goal of 0.2 ppb for any water. These goals are more stringent than the EPA action level of 15 ppb, which also is the regulatory threshold for the State Water Resources Control Board.
What is the public health threat?
A safe campus is our highest priority. Based on the “first draw” preliminary sampling, detected lead levels would not pose a significant health threat to most people. Further testing and analysis, however, are required to fully determine lead concentration levels in drinking fountains, sinks, and bottle-filling stations.
According to public health officials, lead is not absorbed through the skin while washing hands or showering. Further, people generally don’t swallow enough water while brushing their teeth for that to be a concern.
Dr. Olivia Kasirye, Sacramento County’s Health Officer, cites the recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control: In all situations, drink or cook only with water that comes out of the tap cold. Water that comes out of the tap warm or hot can contain higher levels of lead. Boiling this water will NOT reduce the amount of lead. She also says it’s a good practice to run water for 30 seconds during the first use of the day.
Groups most sensitive to lead exposure are children under the age of 5, and pregnant and/or nursing women. Such individuals may want to refrain from drinking water from campus drinking fountains, sinks, or bottle-filling stations until further testing is completed. Public health officials suggest that anyone with concerns contact a health-care provider.
Should I be tested?
The amount of lead in the body is measured in the blood. Student Health and Counseling Services is available to students for physician consultation and blood testing as appropriate at no charge. Interested students may make an appointment online or by calling Student Health and Counseling Services at (916) 278-6461.
Faculty and staff are encouraged to consult with their health-care provider; if necessary, a blood lead test is available through Student Health and Counseling Services by appointment at no charge.
Where does the lead come from?
Lead can enter drinking water through pipes and fixtures. For more about lead in drinking water, please review the information provided by the EPA here: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/basic-information-about-lead-drinking-water.
What about the quality of drinking water at the source?
The Sacramento State campus receives its water from the City of Sacramento, which delivers water that meets all federal and state public health standards. The city’s most recent annual report indicates that lead results were non-detect for all of the city’s samples – all below the EPA lead action limit of 15 ppb: https://www.cityofsacramento.org/Utilities/Education/water-quality.
What are the University's next steps?
The immediate goal is to meet the federal standard for safe drinking water. The University will sample all drinking-water sources on campus.
Sac State also is bringing in third-party consultants to conduct additional sampling to fully determine lead-concentration levels, as well as to find the source of the lead. Free bottled water is available at Folsom Hall; Eureka Hall, Rooms 206 and 401; AIRC, Room 2004; the Student Organizations and Leadership office on the second floor of the University Union; the Office of Admissions, Lassen Hall, Room 1102; and The WELL. The University will continue to offer bottled water as long as is necessary.
Questions? Students should contact Student Health and Counseling Services at (916) 278-6461. Faculty and staff should email Steve Leland in Environmental Health and Safety at email@example.com.
Watch for updates on this page.
Updated: Feb. 21, 2017; 4:30 p.m.