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The Daily Tar Heel

Only one UNC residence hall still has detectable levels of lead in fixtures

Sinks inside of Spencer Residence Hall dorm rooms do not run water on Monday, Aug. 21, 2023.

Last year, residence halls Stacy, Manly, Graham, Cobb, Avery, Ehringhaus, Craige, Morrison, Hinton James, Alderman, Koury, Horton and Spencer had traceable levels of lead in their water fixtures.

Now, the only residence hall that has tested positive for lead within the last three months is Spencer Residence Hall. The University shut off in-room sinks in Spencer on Aug. 15 and has not yet turned them back on. 

The building was first tested in October of last year and was retested in June. One room saw as much as 34.6 parts per billion of lead. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's level for required action occurs when 10 percent of sampled water exceeds 15 ppb – but any amount above zero is toxic to humans. 

Senior Luke Francis said he lived in Spencer during the fall 2022 semester when lead was originally discovered in the in-room sinks and drinking fountains.

“It's not acceptable that UNC is continuing to put students in these kinds of living conditions and subjecting them to potential harm,” he said. 

Francis said he did not receive any changes to his housing payment plan despite the loss of drinking fountains and in-room sinks last fall.

“The fact that we didn't even get a discount or a refund on our housing, I think is just a little weird, and they didn't really seem to push options,” he said.

Francis said he also saw a lack of communication from Carolina Housing about the next steps for clean water in Spencer. He added that he felt like his resident adviser conducted most of the communication on the issue.

UNC Environment, Health and Safety continues to be in the remediation phase of replacing water fixtures at the University that have tested positive for lead since fall 2022.

“We have remediated 291 of the 435 drinking water fixtures thus far that needed to be remediated,” UNC Media Relations said in an email statement. 

Media Relations added that the University is about 67 percent done with the remediation phase.

Once the remediation process is complete, EHS will begin retesting fixtures across campus. The department sent its most recent email on this topic to the UNC community in March.

First-year Elizabeth Wessel, who lives in Everett Residence Hall, said she thought UNC's lead contamination was just a rumor because she had received no information from the University about it at the beginning of the year.

“I would have liked to have known about it and then have clarification that that water was okay to drink,” she said.

Students and faculty interested in more information about lead contamination in specific buildings can visit the EHS testing page.


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