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Updated: On Sept. 20 the university sent an email outlining precautions students can take and addressing some concerns about the health impact of lead in drinking water. The email has been published below.
Eight water fountains on the St. Thomas University campus have been taken out of service and will be replaced after high levels of lead were detected.
Water from five of the fountains tested outside the guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality, while three were close to being outside the guidelines.
The university received the results late Sunday and the fountains were disconnected on Monday, STU spokesman Jeffrey Carleton said.
The fountains include:
Further tests are planned for some residence buildings, Carleton said.
“We’re going to do expand some of our testing in Vanier and Holy Cross to make sure that we understand the range of the issue that we’re facing. We’re also going to test at Chatham and Rigby.”
The university is still trying to determine whether the problem lies with the fountains or the pipes.
“It could be a combination of both or one or the other,” Carleton said. “This is something we want to look at and we want to test with the new water units once they get in place.”
Carleton couldn’t provide an estimate of how old these water fountains are but said they’re among the university’s oldest.
They’ll be replaced with advanced water fountains equipped with filtration systems to reduce particulates like lead. There are already six of these fountains on campus, which were installed as a response to concerns about bottled water on campus.
Bill MacLean, STU’s director of facilities management, will meet as early as Tuesday with public health officials to determine the health risks associated with the test results.
STU doesn’t regularly test for lead and only chose to do so after test results at the University of New Brunswick raised red flags last week.
“There’s no regular testing regime in place to this point,” Carleton said. “The city will go around from time to time and test some of its major infrastructure.
“Now that we know this is an issue and could be one going forward, [MacLean is] going to sit down and look at a regular testing regime that we may consider.”
RPC Science & Engineering, the same company that is testing for lead on the UNB campus, conducted tests on 20 water fountains at the STU campus. MacLean estimated the tests were priced at $20 each.
STU has taken a similar course of action to UNB after it detected lead in its water pipes last week.
UNB has committed to replace three older water fountains on campus and order 20 additional fountains to keep lead out of the water. Coolers will also be installed in areas where drinking water is limited, the UNB website says.
Two hundred additional samples were taken last week and UNB hasn’t announced the results of those tests yet.
According to Health Canada, water from drinking fountains could contain higher levels of lead than water from taps because the water sits in the fountain for long periods of time and water fountains “contain more piping, soldered joints and fittings from which lead may lead.”
Absorbing even low levels of lead can have harmful health effects, including impacting the intellectual development of children.
The email sent Sept. 20 has been published below:
Message to Students – Update on Water Issues in Campus Buildings
I want to update you on the water issues in some of our campus buildings.
We had a discussion today with the Province of New Brunswick’s Medical Health Officer for Fredericton and the City of Fredericton’s Water Department on the elevated lead levels in some of our water fountains and potential remedial measures.
As you know, we took five fountains out of service yesterday because they tested outside the recommended Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality or were close to the range. Given the results, we are expanding our testing in Vanier and Holy Cross as well as Chatham Hall and Rigby Hall.
While lead exposure is always a concern, extended periods of exposure are of concern specifically for young children, infants and pregnant women. The Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality were designed to be protective of children, the most vulnerable population, and limit the lead content of drinking water to maximum acceptable concentration of 0.010mg/L.
These guidelines have built-in safety factors, so it is not a situation of ‘below 10’ one is safe and ‘above 10’ one is going to be sick. At the guideline level of 10, an adult could potentially consume this water over their entire life at without any significant impact on their health. The guideline is intended to apply to average concentrations in water consumed for extended periods; short term consumption of water containing lead at concentrations above the guideline does not necessarily pose undue risk to health. Even so, it is prudent to lower the overall risk as much as possible in a timely manner.
As a precautionary means of reducing exposure to any lead in drinking water, it is recommended that you run the water to cold (5 seconds to two minutes) before you drink it so that it flushes the line. This is a good practice to follow anytime you use a fountain but especially in the morning or when the fountain has not been used frequently. As well, exposure to lead from showering, bathing, dishwashing or cleaning is not a concern.
I am enclosing below the .urls for Government of Canada websites containing information on lead and human health and drinking water. I trust this will provide more information.
Check back with theAQ.net often for updates on this story.