Lead detected in water fountains of two more buildings on UNC-Chapel Hill campus

Julia Wall/jwall@newsobserver.com

Detectable levels of lead have been found in water fountains in two additional buildings at UNC-Chapel Hill, according to a campus message posted online Monday.

The university’s Department of Environment, Health and Safety on Monday sent notifications of lead being detected to occupants of Carrington Hall, which houses the School of Nursing, and Isaac M. Taylor Hall, which houses the School of Medicine.

In Taylor Hall, lead was detected in two drinking fountains. In one of the fountains, the level of lead was 138 parts per billion (ppb) — about nine times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s minimum threshold at which public water systems are required to deliver education materials and take action to reduce the concentration of lead in the water. This is not Taylor residence hall.

In Carrington Hall, lead was detected in eight drinking fountains throughout the building, with one test returning a lead level of 81 ppb.

Lead found in 8 total buildings

Lead has now been found in eight total campus buildings since late August. The university previously announced that lead had been detected in water fountains and sinks in Wilson Library, South Building, Phillips Hall, Manning Hall, Hamilton Hall and Fordham Hall.

EHS said in its campus message Monday that there is an “ongoing investigation” into the issue.

Lead, even at low levels of exposure and ingestion, is known to cause adverse health effects, especially in children and pregnant women. In adults, the EPA says, lead exposure can lead to cardiovascular effects, increased blood pressure, hypertension, decreased kidney function and reproductive problems in both men and women.

In the notifications sent to occupants of Carrington and Taylor halls, EHS said more information about health testing “will be coming soon.”

UNC Media Relations previously told The News & Observer via email that the university “will be offering health testing,” but did not provide additional details about how testing will be organized. The Daily Tar Heel has reported that the university “is working on a system to allow anyone seeking a lead test to access one.”

Until information about testing is released, employees of the university who are pregnant or breastfeeding or who “have further health-related concerns” are instructed to contact the University Employee Occupational Health Clinic by phone at 919-966-9119, Monday’s campus message said.

Students with concerns are instructed to contact UNC Campus Health at 919-966-2281.

Campus visitors and community members with concerns are instructed to contact their health providers.