It was confirmed Wednesday that drinking fountains in the McIntosh Humanities building at Cal State Long Beach tested positive for lead.
As a component of the CHEM 100 class, students test the drinking fountains each semester at various locations on campus — only this time, they actually found something. The tests were conducted on Oct. 19 and were reported to facilities and administration.
“We tested the second floor of the McIntosh building and that’s where the results were found,” said Elaine Bernal, chemistry and biochemistry lecturer for the class that discovered the results. “[This] certainly puts a call out for proactive measures on behalf of the university to test our water periodically.”
Bernal said her CHEM 100 students tested the drinking fountains of 10 sites, all of which tested negative except for the ones in the McIntosh building.
According to Terri Carbaugh, associate vice president of public affairs, after the university was approached with concerns from faculty regarding the water Oct. 26, the university conducted their own testing Nov. 2.
“At that point there was a lot of fear,” Carbaugh said. “We just want to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to make sure everyone understands what’s going on.”
After the university’s testing determined that levels of lead found in the McIntosh building did not conform to Environmental Protection Agency standards, the drinking fountains were shut off on Nov. 6.
Carbaugh said every drinking fountain on campus will be tested until Friday. The results are expected to determine the severity and source of the problem. Until then, all drinking fountains will remain out of service. Water dispensers will be available on campus until the problem is resolved.
According to Tony Malagrino, director of facilities management, the university only has one source of water which is allocated from the Long Beach Water Department.
“It’s a great source of water,” Malagrino said. “They test monthly so the source of water is not the issue.”
While Malagrino could not confirm the actual cause of lead contamination, it is likely that the source lies within the pipes. According to the EPA’s website, lead is typically found in drinking water when service pipes are corroded. This more commonly occurs in structures built before 1986.
Although each drinking fountain will be investigated, they are not to be confused with the hydration stations on campus which are filtered. The implementation of more hydration stations on campus is expected to occur sooner than its original projected date by the end of the year.
“From our perspective we’ve just expedited something we were already planning on doing,” said Mary Stephens, vice president of administration and finance.
According to the EPA, adults who are exposed to lead in their water may experience cardiovascular effects, increased blood pressure, hypertension, decreased kidney function and reproductive issues.
Carbaugh said that while this is in a very early and preliminary stage, employees and students will have a process available to them through the university in which they can report any perceived adverse health symptoms. She added that at this time, they do not anticipate any issues.
“It definitely raises concern but we have to take a closer look at what the test results are showing when we receive them,” Carbaugh said. “We need some time to focus on that so we can get back to the campus community.”