A water fountain on the third floor of Humboldt State University's library is out of service, on Oct. 15. Results from HSU's summer water test released on Oct. 10 reported that lead particles in these fountains are higher than the Environmental Protection Agency's recommended limit. | Photo by Michael Weber

Something’s in the water

Following two other California State Universities, Humboldt State tested water sources on campus

Following two other California State Universities failed tests, Humboldt State tested water sources on campus

Three drinking water fountains on Humboldt State’s campus have been removed from service for having lead levels higher than Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Humboldt State is the third CSU to test its drinking water for lead with all three finding water sources containing higher than recommended lead levels.

Over the summer HSU decided to test some of its drinking water sources after two other CSUs tested drinking water on their campuses and found that some sources tested higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s benchmark of an acceptable level of lead in drinking water.

Since 1991 the EPA regards lead levels in drinking water above 15 parts per billion to be the “action level.” Prior to 1991 the federal action level was 50 PPB.

Sabrina Zink is an Environmental Health and Safety specialist at HSU. Zink said that buildings and fixtures at HSU were selected by prioritizing areas that children under the age of six could be exposed to lead; this is the most vulnerable age for lead exposure in humans. After drinking sources were tested from fixtures that children regularly have access to, older buildings were targeted, and one building by original construction date per decade.

One hundred and twenty one drinking water sources were tested at HSU over the summer. Thirty seven of the 121 sources didn’t contain lead levels high enough to register detection during the test. Eighty one of the tested sources registered lead levels but fell below the EPA’s 15 PPB threshold. Three fixtures tested above or at 15 PPB and have since been removed from service.

Of the three that tested higher than the action level two were drinking fountains, and one was a sink. The fountains were in Forbes gym (16 PPB), and on the third floor of the library (86 PPB). The third fixture, a sink in the bottom floor of the library (15 PPB), tested right at the EPA action level.

“We decided to abandon these fountains,” Zink said.

Zink said lead usually finds its way into drinking water systems through the old fixtures and sometimes through dated fittings and solder.

The other two CSUs that tested drinking water on their campuses were Long Beach and Sacramento. Test results from these campuses revealed drinking water sources containing lead high marks of 127 and 390 PPB.

A spokesperson for the EPA, said the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has found that no safe blood level has been identified for lead, and all sources of lead exposure especially for children should be controlled or eliminated.

The EPA website states that children are particularly vulnerable to lead and that low levels of exposure in kids have been linked to learning disabilities and damage to the nervous system and exposure in adults can lead to decreased kidney function and reproductive problems.

lead in water
The highest lead level samples found in drinking water from three California State Universities and from Virginia Tech’s testing of Flint Michigan’s water crisis in 2015. | Graph by Walter Hackett

According to Zink there is currently no mandate for lead testing in the drinking water at CSU’s though the chancellor’s office did recommend that drinking water should be tested.

“We aren’t required by any regulation or law to test,” Zink said. “We thought it was the right thing to do.”

The CDC website states that you cannot see, taste, or smell lead in drinking water and the only way to know is to have it tested.

Roxanne Moore works at North Coast Laboratories, an Arcata based business that provides drinking water lead testing as a service. Moore said that they charge $27 per sample for lead water testing and the turnaround for results typically takes two to three weeks.

Starting at the beginning of 2018 a law in Calif. was enacted requiring that lead testing be carried out for drinking water for all k-12 public schools. So far, lead sampling for this initiative has tested 3,541 schools and found 137 sites that have tested higher than the EPA action level of 15 PPB.

In 1986 Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act to prohibit the use of fixtures, fittings, and solder containing certain amounts of lead in public drinking water systems.

Zink said that further lead testing is planned for campus housing facilities.

“We are testing housing over Thanksgiving and Christmas break,” Zink said.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email
Share on reddit

More Stories

Photo by Abraham Navarro | Cowboy Daddy's Drummer and Keyboard player Conner West, 25, and guitarist Skye Freitas, 24, jam out at the Gutswurrak Student Activity Center on April 28.

Local bands rock the Gutswurrak

by Ione Dellos Band members wait in front of the bathrooms, eyes anxiously fluttering from the stage to the growing audience in the Gutswurrak Student Activities Center. After the deepest sigh one could possibly take, they make their way to

Travis Allen pole vaults at the Green and Gold Track Event on Feb. 12 Photo by Morgan Hancock.

Athlete’s outperform at decathlon

by Carlos Pedraza The Cal Poly Humboldt Track and Field team participated in the Stanislaus State Multi-Event from Thursday April 7 to Saturday April 9. The team participated in over 10 different events, all of which were multi-day involving different

Photo by Morgan Hancock | Izzy Star hits a home run in final softball game of the season at the Bear River Recreation Center in Loleta, California on Saturday, April 30.

Cal Poly Humboldt plays its last softball game of the series

by Eddie Carpenter On April 30, Cal Poly Humboldt Softball played the last two games of their series against Cal State San Marcos. Due to weather conditions, the softball games had to be relocated to the Bear River Recreation Center

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply