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Updates on detectable levels of lead in campus water fixtures

The Carolina community can continue to receive updates on the list of buildings with detectable lead, the specific impacted fixtures and the lead levels at EHS.unc.edu or by following the new EHS Twitter channel @unc_ehs.

The bell tower is reflected on glass.
The Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower is reflected in the glass wall on the roof of the FedEx Global Education Center on the campus. (Photo by Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Over the past month, Environment, Health and Safety has been testing water fixtures across campus for lead levels and received results back that there is detectable lead in 35 fixtures (21 water fountains and 14 sinks) in eight buildings: Fordham Hall, Hamilton Hall, Manning Hall, Phillips Hall, South Building, Wilson Library, Carrington Hall and Isaac M. Taylor Hall.

As we announced last week, the EHS website includes the list of buildings with detectable lead, the specific impacted fixtures and the lead levels. It also includes answers to frequently asked questions and resources for more information. In addition, the most recent updates will be published to the new EHS Twitter channel @unc_ehs, so please follow it to stay informed.

Water testing

We continue to test drinking water fixtures (water fountains, kitchen/breakroom sinks and ice machines) each day, and we receive results 5-7 days after the initial test. A sign is placed on the fixture during testing to instruct people not to drink from the fixture. EHS compares the results to the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) but will take action if there is any detectable lead. If detectable lead is found, we then shut off the water fixtures, leave the signs in place, notify the building occupants and post the results on the EHS website.

Since students who study in these buildings may not receive this notification, follow @unc_ehs for timely updates as well.

The water testing is proceeding in a phased approach that is expected to last multiple weeks:

  • Phase One – Water fixtures that potentially contain lead components based on their age and construction.
  • Phase Two – Water fixtures in buildings that were built in or prior to 1930.
  • Phase Three – Water fixtures in buildings that were built in or prior to 1990.

When EHS tests a fixture, it is removed from service until the results of the test come back. If there is any level of lead detected, the fixture is removed from service completely and the process to replace that fixture begins.

Health testing

The University has health testing for lead available for UNC-Chapel Hill faculty, staff and students who work or study in the affected buildings. Lead level blood testing is provided if recommended and ordered by campus medical providers based on suspected exposure and health conditions, such as pregnancy and communicated symptoms.

To get tested, please follow the instructions below.

For students and post-doctoral fellows:

  • Contact Campus Health at 919-966-2281.
  • Appointments are generally available within 1-2 days.
  • If ordered by a campus medical provider, blood specimens are collected by Campus Health staff and are sent to Campus Health’s reference laboratory, LabCorp, for testing.
  • Turnaround time for test results is generally 2-3 days and test results are published on students’ Healthy Heels portal along with any additional instructions from providers based on any elevated lead level results.
  • Testing is provided to all students and post-doctoral fellows at no charge.

For faculty and staff:

  • Contact the University Employee Occupational Health Clinic (UEOHC) at 919-966-9119.
  • Appointments are generally available within 2-3 days (contingent on patient schedule).
  • If ordered by a medical provider, blood specimens are collected by UEOHC staff and are sent to LabCorp for testing.
  • Turnaround time for test results is generally 2-3 days and test results are communicated to staff members via UEOHC Occupational Health Nurse.
  • There is no charge to faculty and staff for this testing.

Information about the effects of lead in water can be found on the CDC’s website and on the EPA’s website. Additional questions can be directed to Environment, Health and Safety at 919-962-5507.

Sincerely,

George Battle
Vice Chancellor for Institutional Integrity and Risk Management

Cathy Brennan
Executive Director of Environment, Health and Safety