Water-Quality Testing on Campus

Update: May 8, 2017; 1 p.m.

A message from Dr. Ming-Tung "Mike" Lee, Vice President for Administration/CFO: I would like, first, to thank you for your patience as we have worked to complete the testing of 782 sources of drinking water on our campus. It took a few weeks longer than expected, but I am happy to share the results of that testing with you today. Additionally, we will host another open forum on Monday, May 15, at 3 p.m. in Mendocino Hall 1003 with Dr. Olivia Kasirye, the public health officer for Sacramento County, to discuss the testing results in greater detail. I encourage you to read through the reports below and bring your questions to the forum.

You will find links below to two separate sets of information. The first is the report completed by California Industrial Hygiene Services Inc., a neutral, third-party service that conducted testing and analysis on all drinking water sources on campus with the exception of those in buildings owned by University Enterprises Inc. (UEI). Some drinking water sources and all campus dining-related sources fall under the purview of UEI, the nonprofit auxiliary organization that provides vital services such as dining at Sacramento State. The UEI water sources were tested by California Laboratory Services, another neutral, third-party service, and the results of those tests can be found in the second document.

The California Industrial Hygiene Services Inc. Report of Findings (all campus drinking water sources except campus dining-related services)

California Laboratory Services Report of Findings (campus dining-related sources)

As you will see in the reports, and as published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Drinking Water Requirements for States and Public Water Systems, the action level for lead concentration in drinking water is set at 15 ppb. In January, we shut down some drinking water sources that were below 15 ppb out of an abundance of caution when we first heard about potentially high levels of lead. Many of those sites have since been confirmed through further testing by California Industrial Hygiene Services Inc. to be below 15 ppb. Those drinking water sources will be returned to service.

The 43 units (5.5 percent) that tested over 15 ppb were closed immediately after we were made aware of the results, and they will remain closed until they are repaired or permanently removed. The drinking fixtures that will be replaced will have their water quality retested after the new fixtures are installed. We have ordered the new fixtures and will begin replacing the identified units as soon as the new fixtures arrive. None of the dining-related sources tested over 15 ppb. As mentioned in prior messages, bathroom sinks and showers were not tested, and we continue to advise you not to drink from them. (The California Plumbing Code states: “Drinking fountains and portable water dispensers shall not be located in toilet rooms.”)

The safety of our campus is our top priority, and we will provide you with additional updates once we have completed the replacement or removal of the affected fixtures. Thank you again for your patience, and I hope to see you at the forum.


Update: April 27, 2017; 4:30 p.m.

A message from Dr. Ming-Tung "Mike" Lee, Vice President for Administration/CFO: As you know, the safety of our campus community is our top priority. I want to assure you that Sac State is a safe place. We are in the process of finalizing the testing of drinking water sources on campus. Out of 730 sources tested, we have identified 46 (6.3%) that tested over the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb). Those 46 sources were shut off immediately. A few units will be permanently removed, but the majority will be completely replaced with new fixtures and filters.

To increase the ease of use for those who are filling water bottles or coffee pots, the new units will be equipped with a water bottle filling station. Bathroom sinks and showers were not tested, and we continue to advise you not to drink from them. (The California Plumbing Code states: “Drinking fountains and portable water dispensers shall not be located in toilet rooms.”)

You can find more information about the testing process on this campus update page. While testing has taken a few more weeks than expected, we anticipate that we will be able to share the results and action plan with you in the next two weeks. Additionally, we will be scheduling a campus forum for those who have questions after reviewing the documents.

As published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Drinking Water Requirements for States and Public Water Systems, the action level for lead concentration in drinking water is set at 15 ppb. Per the California Environmental Protection Agency’s State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), there are currently no requirements for the testing of water in schools that are served by a public water system. However, we have decided to follow the SWRCB’s recommendations for water sampling at K-12 schools and its action recommendations, which include “reducing lead levels to less than 15 ppb.” We believe that meeting the standards set for children at K-12 schools is the correct course of action for Sacramento State.

With the exception of campus dining-related sources, all testing was completed by California Industrial Hygiene Services Inc., a neutral, third-party service, to ensure that all testing and analysis were completed by professionals without any influence from the University. It is of the utmost importance that all results are accurate and validated to ensure that all water sources that remain open have lead concentrations below the EPA action level of 15 ppb. As we announced in January, all campus dining establishments have tested below the EPA action level, and testing of those sources was completed by California Laboratory Services, another neutral, third-party service.

Out of an abundance of caution, the University decided to close drinking fountains that exceeded 15 ppb immediately after we were made aware of the results. As mentioned above, for most of the drinking fixtures that exceeded 15 ppb, we will be replacing them and retesting them after the new fixtures are installed. We have ordered the new fixtures and will begin replacing the identified units as soon as they arrive. In the meantime, those drinking water sources identified as over 15 ppb will remained closed for use.

Bottled water will continue to be made available at the following locations: Folsom Hall; Eureka Hall, Room 206; AIRC, Room 2004; the Student Organizations and Leadership office on the second floor of the University Union; the Office of Admissions and Outreach, Lassen Hall, Room 1102; and The WELL. Faculty and staff continue to be encouraged to consult with their health-care provider; if necessary, a blood test is available through Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS) by appointment at no charge. For students, SHCS is available for both physician consultation and blood testing as appropriate at no charge. Interested students may make an appointment online or by calling SHCS at (916) 278-6461.

I understand that there has been frustration that the testing has taken longer than expected. While I had hoped that we could be finished with all testing in mid-April, it was more important to follow the proper testing protocol to ensure that all sources were tested correctly. Thank you for your patience – and I look forward to meeting with you at our forum after the results are shared.


Update: April 14, 2017; 8:30 a.m.

While our initial target was to complete the testing of drinking sources by mid-April, some of the sampling and testing has taken longer than we previously anticipated. We now expect to complete the testing process by early May; therefore, you may see drinking water sources being closed for the next few weeks as we complete the testing process. We appreciate your continued patience, and we hope to be able to share the results with you next month.


Update: Feb. 28, 2017; 1:30 p.m.

Since the issue of elevated lead levels in some sources of drinking-water was brought to our attention, we have worked with multiple experts to determine an action plan for additional testing here at Sacramento State. The University has hired California Industrial Hygiene Services Inc. (CIH) to do the additional testing and lab analysis.

To begin this Phase 2 of testing, the University’s plumbers will prepare the drinking-water sources. During this time, some sources across the campus, including those already deemed safe, will be taken out of service and signage will be posted.

We advise that you do not drink from bathroom sinks or showers, as they will not be tested.

The preparation work will begin Wednesday, March 1, and testing will commence Thursday, March 2. We expect the testing to take several weeks. The full plan for sampling and analysis is available here.

As we announced on February 22, all campus dining establishments have tested below the EPA action level for lead in drinking water (15 parts per billion) and will therefore not be part of this round of testing.

In the meantime, bottled water will continue to be made available at the following locations: Folsom Hall; Eureka Hall, Room 206; 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.

A safe campus is our highest priority. We will keep the campus community updated as this project continues to move forward.


Update: 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.


Update: 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?

An experiential-learning research project tested 449 sinks, drinking fountains, and bottle-filling stations across campus between Jan. 9-12, 2017, shortly after Winter Break on campus. It was conducted by Dr. Jeffery Foran, chair of the Department of Environmental Studies, along with Dr. Justin Miller-Schulze, Dr. Catherine Ishikawa, two graduate students, and nine undergraduate students.

What were the results?

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 85 (or 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 and initiated plans for a second phase of testing and analysis. This testing has been implemented under the direction of a Certified Industrial Hygienist and in accordance with generally accepted industrial hygiene industry practices.

Bathroom sinks and showers will not be tested, and we advise that you not drink from them. (The California Plumbing Code states: "Drinking fountains and portable water dispensers shall not be located in toilet rooms.")

What were the results of the testing on drinking and food-preparation water sources at campus dining establishments?

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, 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 preliminary sampling, detected lead levels would not pose a significant health threat to most people.

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. Public health officials suggest that anyone with concerns contact a health-care provider, and bottled water is available at numerous campus locations.

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.

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.

Whom should I ask if I have more 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 sleland@csus.edu.

Updated: May 8, 2017; 1 p.m.