Campus lead test results released

The latest results of a series of water tests conducted across Mount Allison are in. According to the report, 26 locations in 12 buildings on campus contained more lead than the recommended safe limits for consumption.

The testing was conducted by a “specialized firm experienced in water testing,” and the samples were “analysed by a certified laboratory,” the report said.

In most of the test cases, the amount of lead in the water decreased after the taps had been run for thirty seconds. Consuming more than very small quantities of lead can be toxic to humans.

The most recent testing was conducted between Aug. 12 and Aug. 15, but Facilities Management only released an updated report detailing the amount of lead in the water on Sept. 16. Previous testing was done in 10 buildings between September and December 2014.

Results have shown that some water sources on campus, particularly in the Crabtree and Flemington buildings, contained up to 79 times the safe amounts of lead in drinking water. The highest concentrations came from sources mostly inaccessible for drinking.

The Windsor don’s apartment’s main washroom sink was the only location where both drinking water was available and levels of lead surpassed ten micrograms per litre after letting the water run for 30 seconds.

According to the report, 275 locations in 26 campus buildings were tested. The buildings include academic, residence and administrative buildings.

The report said various actions will be taken to remedy to this situation. The sink in the Windsor Don’s apartment has already been replaced. The drinking fountain on the main floor of Crabtree, along with the one near G42 will be removed. Various bathroom faucets will be replaced. Signs will be installed near custodial sinks to notify workers that the water is not suitable for drinking.

In Flemington, the drinking fountain on the first floor next to room 18 will be removed. 24.8 micrograms of lead per litre were identified after the first draw. The same procedure was followed for the drinking fountain situated in the men’s washroom in Room 9, where an amount of 32.8 micrograms of lead per litre was found.

Overall, 35 faucets will have to be replaced in the academic building.

While some level of lead is present in nearly all natural water, human use of the element in the twentieth century greatly increased its presence in the environment. Health Canada sets its Maximum Acceptable Concentration for lead at 10 micrograms per liter, which is considered the highest concentration of lead in water humans can safely drink. The agency also highlights recent research showing an MAC below 10 micrograms can may pose the same adverse health effects.

When lead is consumed, it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and body tissues. Much of it is stored in bone tissue, where it may remain for upwards of 25 years. The kidneys and intestine will gradually filter and excrete lead from these tissues.

Lead levels of as low as 10 micrograms per liter in water can affect the cognitive and neurological development of young children and fetuses in utero. Levels of lead in water 40 micrograms per liter or higher disrupt the body’s ability to make red blood cells. Consuming lower levels of lead over time can cause headaches, anaemia, speech and attention disruption, and vomiting in adults.

The protocol called for the testing to be done in two steps. Analyses were done from a first draw, with the sample being caught right when opening the tap. The second draw happened following a “flush,” letting the water run thirty seconds after the first draw.

The testing protocols and the safe limits, were recommended by the New Brunswick Department of Health.

Further testing is scheduled for Dec. 2014.

Jean-Sébastien Comeau