Bean West Hall construction works to eliminate lead pipe problem

With recent renovation work happening in Bean West Hall and continuing through the year, many students living there will see renovations aimed to improve the standard of living in the hall.

One of those renovations will be improving the lead pipes that Bean Hall has been using.

In spring of 2016, the school found that halls like Bean, Hamilton, Walton and Barnhart had lead in the water testing above the 15 parts per billion level that is allowed by the Environmental Protections Agency.

Water with lead above that level is considered unsafe for human consumption, and the university was forced to inform the residents in those halls the following September.

According to UO Spokesperson Tobin Klinger, 22 of the water drinking fixtures in Bean Hall showed elevated levels of lead in fall 2016 and were put out of commission. Students were given bottled water and dispenser water while repairs were made and the fixtures were retested.

Another 13 fixtures in the west side of Bean were part of this year’s renovation project, according to Klinger.

Since finding lead in the water, the university has taken steps to fix it, but before the levels were found, the university didn’t regularly test for lead in the water.

According to the EPA, if a public school or childcare facility operates their own public water system, there is no federal law requiring them to test the water. The EPA is only responsible for testing water in public drinking supplies.

As for universities like UO, there’s no regulation on testing water regularly. The university will only test if the department or building requests it.

To combat more issues like the one in 2016, the university also created the Drinking Water Monitoring Plan, which includes periodic testing of drinking water in older residence hall buildings.

As for other halls such as Barnhart, Walton and Hamilton, which also showed the same elevated levels of lead, water was cleared by either aerator cleaning, rebuilding or replacing pipes with certified lead-free parts, according to Director of Strategic Engagement and Communications for Safety & Risk Services Kelly McIver. In some cases, fixtures were removed from service entirely.

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Erin Carey

Erin Carey

Erin Carey is a Senior Reporter, majoring in Journalism and minoring in Comparative Literature. She loves coffee, hockey and telling visitors at the Oregon Zoo random facts about the animals.