The water in one Rollins College dorm has students reaching for bottled water instead – a response to potential health concerns.
Rollins College announced on Nov. 10 that water from McKean Hall contained traces of lead exceeding federal quality limits, raising health fears.
What started as a proactive test to make sure the college’s dorms had clean water last month ended up being an unpleasant discovery. After two rounds of testing in the college’s older buildings, McKean Hall – built in 1962 – came up positive for lead after results came back from an outside lab.
That type of contamination in drinking water has been connected to multiple ailments, including decreased kidney function, high blood pressure and reproductive problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“In context, the levels in McKean are of concern, but are not alarming,” wrote Facilities Management Director Scott Bitikofer in an email to students and parents. “We believe this is something that can be fixed, and we will be working diligently to communicate results of this round of testing, as well as next steps regarding remediation.”
“The safety of our campus community is our utmost priority and concern, which is why we pursued this testing and why we are sharing the process with you.”
The college has since advised students in McKean Hall not to drink water from the tap. Bottled water is also being provided in the meantime while the college tries to discover the source of the lead. Later tests revealed that lead was only found in one of six samples, which was less than what was discovered last month, according to a second email sent to students by Bitikofer.
But Rollins College isn’t the only school to find lead in their water – a fact that encouraged Rollins to test the water in the first place. Willamette University in Oregon had a similar issue with water quality in September, finding unhealthy amounts of lead in six different sources around campus, including a restroom, a kitchen and a coffee bar.
Penn State University found high lead content in their water just this month, after taking 103 water samples across their campus this summer and finding contamination in 12.6 percent of the samples.
Rollins College Director of Public Affairs Lauren Bradley said that after the college found the lead they immediately began running tests on the water in dorms and locations where food is prepared around the campus. McKean Hall is the only site at Rollins College to show traces of lead, but that isn’t much of a solace for students living in the freshman dorm today.
“We’re the only building on campus that has that problem right now,” said freshman Rose Locke.
“We can’t use the sinks…. It’s getting better, but they have no prediction for when it will be completely gone.”
“They’re fixing it I guess,” freshman Hallie Brody said. “It’s not that inconvenient, it’s just odd that they just caught it now.”
Bradley said that the college is still running more tests on where the lead is coming from in McKean Hall, hoping to determine whether it’s an issue within the building or where the building connects to the water utility.
The results should come back within the next couple weeks, she said.