Daily 49er

Water in the works at CSULB

One hundred and twenty-nine fountains were reopened after testing negative for lead at the university.

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Ernie Robles, vice president of Titan Environmental (left) and Robert Menald, President (right) were also in attendance to offer insight into the testing process and results 12/8.

Ernie Robles, vice president of Titan Environmental (left) and Robert Menald, President (right) were also in attendance to offer insight into the testing process and results 12/8.

Analeeza Sanchez

Analeeza Sanchez

Ernie Robles, vice president of Titan Environmental (left) and Robert Menald, President (right) were also in attendance to offer insight into the testing process and results 12/8.

Miranda Andrade-Ceja, Editor in Chief

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After three weeks of bagged hydration stations and taped-off water fountains, the culprit behind the lead contamination in the McIntosh Humanities Building was discovered to be the fountains themselves.

Cal State Long Beach officials invited the community in an open forum Friday Dec. 8 to answer any and all questions regarding lead poisoning and the state of drinking fountains on campus.  

The panel of over 13 experts on water and lead testing were seated across Hall of Science lecture hall 105, outnumbering the student attendance which totaled to five, four of which were student reporters affiliated with campus media.

The panel of experts included Mary Stephens, vice president of administration and finance, toxicologist Paul Damien, Tony Malagrino, interim associate vice president of physical planning and facilities management, and representatives from the Long Beach Health Department, the Long Beach Water Department and Titan Environmental. Terri Carbaugh, associate vice president of public affairs, was also in attendance.

Testing of water fountains and faucets will continue on through 2018-2019 after 129 water fountains and other high-priority locations tested negative for lead contamination over the past month. Out of the total 130 fountains tested, one in the softball visitor’s dugout returned positive for lead contamination. All water sources in both on-campus child centers and University Student Union have been tested negative for lead.

“[The visitor dugout fountain] is not utilized often, fortunately.” Stephens said. According to PPFM, said fountain had not been used for about six months and will remain off until replaced.

According to Malagrino, the lead contamination has more to do with the aged state of the water fountains rather than the integrity of the pipes in buildings constructed after 1990.

 “We did not get water that had elevated levels of lead, so the water [running into] the building is clear, and we tested it,” Malagrino said. “So we’re as sure as we could be that it’s the instrument the water is coming out of that may be contributing to the contamination.”

Malagrino explained the Elkay filtered hydration stations implemented by the university catch 99 percent of lead contamination.

All fountains in buildings built after 1990 have been tested and reopened on Monday, and up until Dec. 22 EPA-approved testing will be conducted on all fountains located in structures built before 1990. Stephens reiterated in the forum that the year each building was made is particularly important, because lead piping was prohibited in building code in the late ‘80s. Prior to that, lead piping was legal to use.

The water tests are being conducted by environmental consulting firm Titan Environmental. In a previous article by the Daily 49er, Stephens said the university has a risk management fund for unexpected costs such as these. Malagrino did not provide a clear answer for the overall cost of the water testing and said that the process could take up to a year and a half.

The remaining 129 water fountains that tested negative for lead reopened on Monday, Dec. 4.

High-priority locations that were tested first included the University Student Union, the Child and Family Center, the Isabel Patterson Child Development Center and the McIntosh Humanities Building. Stephens explained that these locations were high-priority because children are particularly vulnerable to lead and because the USU is a food facility.

The fountains that did not comply with Environmental Protection Agency standards in the McIntosh Building have been replaced by filtered hydration stations and are now operational, according to Stephens. Over the next year and a half, the university plans to replace all water fountains with hydration stations.

The closure of all water fountains on campus was prompted after lead was discovered in several McIntosh Humanities Building drinking fountains. University professor Elaine Bernal’s chemistry 100 class conducted these lead tests as a semesterly assignment. Testing of the university’s water source, which is conducted through the Long Beach Water Department, revealed that the school’s water sources were clear of abnormal lead levels.

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