By Maria Elena Cruz
In an email sent by university communications Tuesday afternoon, officials stated that water has been restored to Moye Hall. This after further testing revealed no actionable levels of lead were detected in the samples taken from sinks that initially caused concerns, as stated in the communication.
In the email, the university stated it “Opted to proceed with extreme caution after two out of ten samples of water tested with actionable levels of lead.” Officials added that “…faucets at the breakroom sinks will be replaced.”
According to the email, the university will now conduct tests again in six months checking for lead or copper.
The communications department sent out a notice last week alerting faculty and staff to higher-than-allowable levels of lead in drinking water in Moye Hall that could be potentially harmful to your health if ingested.
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ,) an action level exceedance is not a violation, but triggers other requirements to minimize exposure to lead and copper in drinking water, that include water quality parameter monitoring, corrosion control treatment, source water monitoring/treatment, public education and lead service line replacement.
Issued on Oct. 27, the notice stated two out of ten samples taken by the TCEQ indicated potentially harmful levels of lead in the water.
The university is required by the EPA’s Safe Water Act to notify consumers when lead levels exceed an “action required” level. Lead levels exceeding 0.015 milligrams per liter for lead– based on a 90 percentile level of tap water samples– are considered high enough to require the university to take a series of state mandated steps to minimize lead exposure for students and faculty.
The two samples that came back positive for action levels of lead came from breakroom sinks on the third and fourth floors of Moye Hall. In an email to the Lake Front on Friday, Facilities Manager Darrell Glasscock said Moye Hall gets its water from the OLLU water system, a groundwater system independent of the San Antonio Water System (SAWS), the region’s largest utility.
Residence halls and buildings on the east side of campus receive water directly from SAWS. Samples were also taken from Providence Hall, Main Building, St. Ann’s, Thermal Plant and Walters, all came back negative for action levels of lead.
The university took several measures to ensure the safety of students and staff by disabling breakroom sinks and drinking fountains in Moye Hall until further testing results. Students expressed some concern over the recent findings and hope to see drinking fountains in working order soon, since Moye Hall recently installed a drinking fountain– costing approximately $850 — that would allow students to fill their own water bottles and eliminate the need to buy bottled water.
However, Glasscock said enabling the fountains would be contingent upon the subsequent tested samples and their results, that have now come back negative.
“If our additional sampling verifies that the elevated readings are isolated to the two fixtures then we will be able to restore water to the other fixtures and complete the replacement of those two identified fixtures and their immediate piping as quickly as possible,” Glasscock said last week in an email.
The TCEQ makes its initial testing with two rounds of consecutive six-month sampling. The monitoring periods for collecting samples are from Jan 1 – June 30, for the first round of testing and July 1 – Dec 31, for the second round. Water systems that test negative for lead could have their sampling testing requirements reduced to 1 year or 3 years, based on their 90th percentile lead and copper sampling during their initial sampling period.
OLLU will now be required to submit at least one sample a year, Glassock said, however, he mentioned the university will submit samples twice in the coming year.
The Safe Drinking Water Act requires state and local officials to monitor and determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur with an adequate margin of safety.
These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs). The EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero, since lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health, even at low exposure levels. water systems.
Ingesting lead may lead to a number of health related issues. Continued exposure to lead can cause the toxin to accumulate in the body over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium. This is especially harmful for pregnant women, when lead is released from bones as maternal calcium and is used to help form the bones of the fetus.
If you think you or someone you know has been expose to lead inadvertently, contact your health care provider or seek the advice of the OLLU Health Services Offices. A nurse or doctor can help you decide whether to test your blood to see if it has high levels of lead.
The health services office is open Mon-Thurs, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and Fri: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, for an appointment call 210-431-3919.