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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Don’t Drink the Water

Just when you thought it was safe to drink the water again, there is yet another problem with the bubblers on UMass Boston’s campus. Levels of lead in the water fountains still remains a problem, according to a study performed by the Environmental Club. The study finds that while the lead levels have dropped, the average amount of lead found in the bubblers is still above the EPA “Action Level.”

The study, performed by Catherine Moroski, Annemarie Herbst, Robert Beattie, and Daniel Brabander, found that the level of lead was, on average, 18.4 parts per billion (ppb), which is above the Environmental Protection Agency’s Action Level (the level which the EPA has determined to be too high) of 15 ppb.

The highest concentration of lead found was 120 ppb, which is 700% or 7 times higher than the EPA legal maximum. Many of the water fountains were below the EPA action level, but the average was brought up significantly by spikes such as this.

This is not the first time there has been a problem with the bubblers. In February of 2001 The Mass Media reported for the first time that the water from bubblers on campus did indeed have unacceptably high levels of lead. UMB receiving and shipping department employees called the Office of Environmental Health and Safety after “orange, nasty tasting water” was found coming out of a water fountain in the Quinn Building.

The amount of lead in the bubblers has decreased since the first study, with the overall average down from 28.4 ppb to 18.4 ppb. The solution implemented after the last article was to add point-of-service filters and to constantly flush the lines in the hopes of keeping the lead from accumulating in the pipes.

Of those tested, the filtered bubblers seemed to have worked better than those that flush. The study shows that the filtered bubblers had two spikes above the EPA action level whereas the flushing bubblers had twice as many. This does not bode well for the flushing system that has already been a subject of controversy.

The flushing system was started after the filtering system broke down. It would cost the University in the range of $100,000 to fix the filters, so instead they chose to constantly flush the water as a cheap, temporary solution. Unfortunately, the system required three hoses to constantly drain at a combined rate of 4.8 gallons a minute. The Mass Media reported in November of 2001 that the flushing system was wasting over 2.5 million gallons of water annually and costing the school $20,000 a year in unused drinking water.

To have lead poisoning, a person must have in their system 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, which is 0.00000001 grams per liter. It is difficult to determine how much lead a person would have to ingest to be affected because most lead will pass through an adult’s system. While the amounts of lead in the study are not necessarily disastrous to adults, those who should be most concerned about lead poisoning are children and pregnant women. Even small amounts of lead can have serious developmental effects on a small child or an unborn fetus, as they are still developing and are therefore most vulnerable.