EDWARDSVILLE — Retesting has found high levels of lead in the water in two buildings at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Rich Walker, interim vice chancellor for administration at the university, said two buildings — Lovejoy Library and the Science Lab West building — tested above the federal and state action level of 15 parts per billion.
This round of testing used multiple samples from each building. These samples resulted in different results in Lovejoy Library, which originally tested at 144 parts per billion.
“In the library, we got mixed results,” Walker said. “Two of the samples came above action limits, and two came below. The next action step is to go and do additional testing of every single water fountain and sink in the building.”
Walker said he hopes to have those test results by the end of the week, but said the holiday may delay the results.
The Science Lab West building, which originally tested at 14.9 parts per billion, tested with consistently high results.
“In the Science West building, we got consistent results, but they were consistently above the action level limits,” Walker said. “So I’m glad we tested it, but because it came back consistently above the limits we skipped the phase that says ‘test all of the fixtures’ and we go right to ‘what do we do to reduce the level.’
“We’re providing temporary drinking water on every floor, we’ve shut off the drinking fountains and we’re negotiating contracts to get an engineer on board who has water quality experience to help us get into the system of the Science West building to determine the source of the elevated levels,” he said.
Walker said the water sitting in the pipes too long may still be the cause of the results for Lovejoy Library, which would not receive much use during the first week of the semester. Science Lab West is a different story.
“The Science building remains a puzzle,” Walker said. “It should have had enough usage by the time we did the test that it shouldn’t be an issue. But I’m not a water quality expert, so that’s why we’re bringing in outside help to figure it out.”
Despite the test results, Walker said the water is considered safe.
“The EPA does not consider it hazardous or dangerous,” he said. “It’s a red flag that says ‘If you reach this level, you need to do something about it.’ They don’t say it’s unsafe. They just say ‘You need to keep an eye on this because we’re getting elevated results. You need to find out what the problem is.’”
Walker also emphasized that the university has responded quickly to this situation.
“We got on this right away. We’ve been very transparent and open about it,” he said. “We take the safety of our faculty and students very seriously, so we want to get to the root of what’s going on.”