Why is UW-Stout testing the water? What are we testing for?
Some of UW-Stout’s newer construction projects (Red Cedar Hall, North Point Dining and Memorial Student Center) have had some pinhole leaks in hot water piping – piping that recently was installed and which one would not expect to have leaks so soon. UW-Stout hired a consultant to study this pipe integrity issue. That consultant tested for a lot of different things, including metals and minerals, to understand any corrosion that may be occurring. In their metals analysis, this consultant alerted UW-Stout to some lead levels in some of our hot water systems and some of the potable water system. So UW-Stout is now doing follow-up testing for lead in drinking water. Chancellor Meyer has directed that all occupied buildings on campus be tested.
Who is doing the testing?
Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH) was hired as an independent drinking water testing consultant. SEH has an extensive history in our region and in the Midwest, with designing and maintaining waterworks systems.
Stout’s water comes from the city of Menomonie, doesn’t it?
Yes, UW-Stout receives its water from the city of Menomonie. The city Water Department has been informed of our leaks and of our lead testing program. UW-Stout has met with city officials, who have assured us that their water is safe and in compliance with EPA’s lead and copper rules, as well as other EPA and DNR regulations.
What have been the test results for my building?
SEH completed a first round of lead in water testing and received results at the end of February. See Water Testing Results for the reports done thus far. Of 34 buildings tested, at a total of 42 sites, three sites had samples that tested above the EPA recommended action level for lead of 15 parts per billion (also listed as 15 micrograms per liter on lab reports). UW-Stout immediately locked out the fixtures from those three sites, which included a drinking fountain and a kitchenette sink. In addition, another four sites had lead levels between 4.8 ppb and 15 ppb, which, while not above EPA recommended action levels, we are still going to act on, based on recommendations from SEH. This may involve taking a few individual water fountains offline, installing new bottle-fill stations, or removing old piping.
What about UW-Stout’s bottle-fill stations?
The bottle-fill stations have been performing very well thus far in the tests. These stations have a filter that removes lead and other contaminants. Of 11 bottle-fill stations tested so far, 10 had no lead detected -- meaning they have less than 0.16 ppb of lead, which is the laboratory detection limit -- and one had 0.33 ppb lead, well below any levels of concern.
I have children who attend classes/programs at UW-Stout, should I be concerned for their health?
UW-Stout officials have met with the Dunn County Public Health Department to inform them of our water testing program and our results. The Health Department’s advice for UW-Stout families is the same as it is for all community members when considering the issue of lead: They advise blood level lead testing for all children according to state guidance document: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/lead/test.htm. Dunn County Health Department has services available for families with lead questions, including public health staff that can consult with individuals to assess their risk factors with respect to lead. See the Dunn County Health Department website for contact information.
What does “flushing” mean? I hear that the City and UW-Stout flush water lines occasionally?
This is very important! Both the City and Stout utilities/maintenance staff “flush” water lines by holding the taps open for what seems like a long time (sometimes several minutes) periodically. This is usually done at main valves where water flow is high. It helps to circulate water better and keep particulates from concentrating. Lead is more of an issue when water sits in the pipe for long periods of time. Lead can leach out of old pipes in public water mains, commercial buildings and homes. So flushing is everyone’s responsibility: please hold your faucets and water fountain taps open for up to a minute or two when using them, especially in the morning or after periods of no use. See the following guidance from Wisconsin DNR for more information: http://dnr.wi.gov/files/pdf/pubs/dg/dg0015.pdf. The easiest way to lower your risk of lead from water is to flush your water lines and taps consistently.