Lead levels exceeding EPA action limits were found in fixtures inside four more Southern Oregon University buildings, according to reports issued by the university Wednesday.
Water fountains and faucets at one of the Greensprings residence halls, the Student Health and Wellness Center, the Music Building and Cox Hall have high levels of lead, according to tests taken in July. The results followed announcements earlier this summer that drinking fountains and a faucet were removed because of lead levels inside the Education-Psychology building.
The findings followed an extensive test of fixtures inside SOU facilities built before 2002, according to SOU Manager of Environmental Health and Safety Russell Deen. The university contracted with Neilson Research Corp. to test fixtures in more than 100 SOU-owned buildings.
“Some of the fixtures are from an older era. We were anticipating finding something,” Deen said. “Overall we’ve had very minimal results coming back.”
Inside Greensprings D, one of four residence halls built in 1969 that house first-year students, a drinking fountain contained more than twice the EPA limit of 15 parts per billion, and a kitchen faucet had close to double the level. The fountain, tested at the end of June, showed 32.3 parts per billion, while the faucet in the second-floor kitchen showed 29.9 parts per billion. Both fixtures have been replaced, and the new units are being tested to ensure they are in compliance, Deen said.
All other fixtures in the Greensprings complex complied with tests, SOU spokesman Jim Beaver said.
"That was the only one that had an issue," Beaver said. "(Greensprings) A, B and C passed."
Two faucets were replaced in the 1964-built Student Health and Wellness Center because of lead levels, Deen said. A break room faucet showed levels at 26.6 parts per billion, and a room Deen described as an "unused office" in the building had levels of 16.6 parts per billion.
The university removed a drinking fountain in the first floor of the 1972-built Music Building after tests showed lead levels at 41.1 parts per billion. Deen said the fixture hasn't been replaced because crews are doing follow-up testing on the plumbing source.
A fountain was removed from the basement laundry area of the 1958-built Cox Hall, a facility once used as a student residence hall that is now used for visitor groups and conferences. The drinking fountain result was 24.5 parts per billion.
"It's in an area that's not used right now," Deen said.
Two water fountains and a faucet were removed in June from the Education-Psychology Building. The faucet has been replaced, but replacement fountains are awaiting further testing. The university is also deciding whether to replace the fountains with basic units or more advanced ones, Deen said.
Beaver said the university intends to have all fixtures in compliance before the school year starts in September.
Although it didn't exceed the federal limit for lead, one drinking fountain was replaced in the DeBoer Sculpture Building because it showed copper levels at 1.41 milligrams per liter, above the EPA limit of 1.3. Ingesting high levels of copper can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The investigation of water sources at SOU followed news of a water crisis in Flint, Mich., where tests found lead levels in the hundreds or even thousands of parts per billion.
Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.