Lead contamination testing wrapping up in April


Fountains in Douglass Hall are shut off on Tuesday, March 28. Drinking water sources across campus are being periodically shut off while workers test them, as an 8-18 hour period of inactivity is needed in order to get a ‘first-draw’ sample. (Photo by John Ferrannini)

Kameron Schmid

The second comprehensive test for lead contamination in Sacramento State’s drinking water sources is underway and should be completed in April, according to school officials.

The current round of testing is being done by California Industrial Hygiene Services, or CIH Services, a certified industrial hygienist group hired by Sac State. CIH began work on March 2, and testing is almost complete, according to Elisa Smith, Sac State’s director of news and communications.

Smith said that a large portion of testing was completed over spring break, including in the unoccupied residence halls, and that the rest of testing should be done by the end of next week.

CIH Services will then begin working on providing the results of those tests, which are anticipated to be final in mid-April. At that point, Sac State will assess the situation and begin looking at remediation measures, which could range from replacing fixtures to overhauling water systems for entire buildings, if deemed necessary.

In total, the tests comprise 494 drinking water sources, which according to Jill Parker — the interim senior director for risk management services and chief risk officer — includes previously untested sources and a second testing of sources that were found to have contamination.

The protocol for the testing, laid out by CIH Services, involves turning off water fountains for 8-18 hours before taking a sample, which is done to give a more accurate sample of the normal levels by getting a “first draw” of each fountain.

Workers collect samples from fountains in Mendocino Hall on Tuesday, March 28. (Photo by Barbara Harvey)

That is the reason some students may have seen fountains previously left on that were blocked for a period of time and then turned back on.

The testing is a follow-up to the findings of a research group’s previous test of 449 on-campus drinking water sources, in which it was found that approximately 20 percent of drinking water sources tested had lead contamination levels above 5 parts per billion, the bottled-water standard set by the Food and Drug Administration.

Twenty-seven of the 449 sources had contamination levels above 15 parts per billion, the action level designated by the Environmental Protection Agency. All fountains above the bottled water standard were shut off when the testing results came in January of this year.

The full list of tests being conducted on fountains is available here and a Sac State campus update on the ongoing work is available here.