Because of the explosion of detection of lead pollution in water supplies nationwide, Southern Oregon University has voluntarily started checking out water on campus and found that two fountains and a sink in the Education-Psychology Building are suspect.
SOU has received no complaints about its water, but decided to be “proactive” and find any suspicious water outlets on campus, said SOU spokesman Ryan Brown.
SOU found two drinking fountains in the Education-Psychology Building tested beyond standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A sink in the preschool in the same building had elevated lead levels but was within EPA limits. The school took to “immediate and corrective actions” on learning of the results, he said, starting with closure and replacement of all three fixtures.
No parents of children in the preschool, located there for many decades, have complained, said Brown. “We haven’t heard of any specific concerns. We, as a university, if anything comes up, are concerned and that’s why we’re being proactive,” he said.
While the lead is elevated in those three fixtures, but not in the rest of the building, it points to lead in the hardware, but not in the supply of water for the campus, he said, which comes from the city of Ashland.
“If it were a problem with the water supply, it would show up all over the campus, and it doesn’t,” he said. Because it points to hardware, the issue will be easily resolved and with little expense, he said.
SOU is examining all water systems in buildings constructed before 2000, and will have any issue resolved, he adds, by the start of fall term in November. After 2000, he said, lead was not generally used in water pipes.
“As more comprehensive testing of campus buildings proceeds throughout the summer, any results indicating lead levels beyond the EPA standard will be immediately communicated to the campus community,” said Brown in a statement. “Any lead fixtures or pipes that are found will be replaced and water will continue to be monitored to ensure the health and safety of the campus community.
“Southern Oregon University gets its water from the City of Ashland, which recently conducted tests for lead and found no concerns.”
Brown said the investigation was triggered by the water catastrophe in Flint, Michigan, as well as many other spots — and it’s something the university wants to get on top of immediately, before any concerns arise.
Updated information about lead level testing can be found online at www.sou/edu/ehs.
July 1: This story has been updated to reflect that the fixture in the preschool with an elevated lead level was a sink, not a water fountain.
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.