Water in Bean and Hamilton halls now safe to consume

Bean Hall is one of the residence halls that had elevated levels of lead in its water. Water with lead levels in four halls tested at twice the EPA approved level. The lead could have been in the water all of last year. (Jack Pitcher/Emerald)

Water in Bean and Hamilton halls is now safe to drink and cook with, according to an email sent to residents from University Housing on Oct. 4.

“You may now use all bathroom sinks for cooking and teeth brushing, in addition to washing in Bean Hall. You may also use any drinking fountain that is turned on and has a green sticker noting that the water fixture meets EPA recommendations for consumption,” the email read.

University spokesman Kelly McIver confirmed that water is also safe to consume in Hamilton Hall.

“Earlier this week we let Bean and Hamilton residents know that they can resume using those fixtures for cleaning or for drinking water,” McIver said.

Tests are still pending for the water in Walton Hall.

“There were some delays in getting confirmation test results back for Walton,” McIver said.

The lead contamination of resident hall water was a result of old fountain and sink aerators, according to McIver. An aerator is the screen at the end of a faucet or water fountain that makes water come out evenly. Aerators can collect metal particles and contaminate water, McIver said.

“Aerators can collect metal particles from the sink fixture over time,” McIver said. “The aerator can then essentially collect and increase the amount of lead in the water that passes through.”

McIver said that aerators in the residence halls were cleaned or replaced when necessary. The water fixtures were then tested before being cleared for use.

Prior to move-in day in September, UO Housing warned residents of Bean, Barnhart, Walton and Hamilton halls not to drink their water due to the elevated levels of lead, the Emerald reported.

The water from the affected faucets has more than 15 parts of lead per billion, which is unsafe for human consumption, according to federal Environmental Protection Agency. High lead levels in water can contribute to negative health effects, especially for pregnant women, infants and children under 6.

In response to the growing problem, the University of Oregon’s Environmental Health and Safety Office launched a comprehensive drinking water monitoring plan in late May 2016. According to McIver, the program has been collecting water samples sporadically this year, with the focus on living spaces and child care centers. Results from Vivian Olum Child Development Center and Moss Street Children’s Center came back earlier and showed the water was safe to consume.