Water Quality

WATER QUALITY
Rowan Testing Quality of Its Water

Water purified across Glassboro campus

(Update: Sept. 19, 2017) I am pleased to announce that our campus-wide lead remediation plan is complete and that all drinking water meets state and federal standards for safety.

In July 2016, lead was discovered in the water of Linden Hall and several other buildings on the Glassboro campus, a finding that triggered a comprehensive study of drinking water and the development of an action plan to correct the situation. While distressing, the hazard of lead in water is one that many organizations face. This is particularly true for buildings constructed before 1986, the year lead was banned from use in plumbing materials.

I write you today to detail how we’ve handled the situation.

What we’ve achieved so far

Since the initial discovery, Rowan has spent approximately $1.2 million on a multi-faceted approach to ensure that our drinking water is safe. This past summer we completed the campus-wide improvement plan, including:

  • Installed in-line ANSI/NSF-approved filters for cold water sources on sinks in kitchens (residential and food service areas) and bathrooms, including 1,421 in residence halls alone. These high-end filters are rated for the removal of at least 99.9 percent of all metals and particulate matter and are designed to last three years or to treat up to 10,000 gallons of water each.
  • Installed 77 bottle-filling stations/fountains that distribute filtered water, with 19 more to be installed by the end of the fall semester. Of the total, 18 stations are in residence halls.
  • Installed new in-line filters in eight traditional water fountains in academic buildings.
  • Installed 20 new backflow preventers in service lines to replace older fixtures.
  • Retrofitted all six ice makers in the Athletics Department with additional filtration.
  • Distributed more than 300,000 bottles of water on campus while the remediation plan was being developed and filters were being installed.
  • Collected and analyzed roughly 4,100 water samples through a testing firm.

Drinking water standards and taking action

Upon discovering elevated lead levels, University officials held a series of public meetings, created a call center and water-quality hotline and posted regular updates for the campus community. We then sampled ALL potable water outlets in Glassboro campus buildings. Initially, some faucets in nine residence halls contained levels that exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard of 15 parts per billion (ppb), which the U.S. EPA considers the “Action Level.” Several rounds of followup testing indicated that the vast majority of lead levels across campus fell below the U.S. EPA Action Level, and, in many instances, no lead was detected. Read all about our water test results here. In spite of those encouraging findings, Rowan launched a vigorous campaign to remove the lead and keep the community informed.

A need to be cautious

The law does not require universities to monitor water for elevated lead levels, but we will continue to do so.

Students, faculty and staff should note that, while cold water sources have filters — including restroom and kitchen faucets in residence halls, food service areas and academic buildings — hot water sources do not. Some of the hot water outlets may be the source of water that tests above 15ppb. According to the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, however, it is safe to use this water for bathing and cleaning cooking utensils.

Moving forward, we will continue to monitor Rowan’s water quality and take appropriate measures to ensure that our water is always clean and safe. As always, please feel free to contact us through officeofthepresident@rowan.edu or 856-256-5200 if you have any questions or concerns.  

 


Rowan takes broad measures to ensure water quality

(Update: March 7, 2017) We are pleased to announce that the testing portion of our comprehensive water-quality study on the Glassboro campus is complete and that we have developed solutions that significantly will improve the quality of water across the entire campus.

From November through January, samples were taken from 43 buildings (academic, administrative and residential facilities), and of them nine buildings tested positive for lead above 15 parts per billion, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) level at which action must be taken. The buildings that tested positive for the higher levels of lead are: Chestnut, Evergreen, Magnolia, Mimosa, Mullica, Triad and Willow halls; Edgewood Park Apartments; and the Townhouse Complex. None of the academic or administrative buildings have potable water (water intended for consumption) that is above the threshold.

The University will take the following steps immediately to improve the quality of the water in all its buildings.

Immediate Solutions

  1. During Spring Break (March 12-18), we will install faucet-mounted filters in every residence hall and apartment complex except for Holly Pointe Commons, Whitney Center and the Rowan Boulevard Apartments since they recently were constructed. All residential students will have access to a filtered faucet in their immediate living area (e.g., restroom and kitchen sinks). The NSF-certified filter units we will use, according to the manufacturers, capture 99 percent of all lead and last for approximately 100 gallons before needing to be changed. Who monitors and changes the filters will vary by location depending on whether the faucets are in private or common areas. Instructions will be distributed once filters are in place.
  2. We will install 31 more filtered water-bottle filling/drinking stations across campus, adding to the 49 stations and 32 inline filters installed in the fall. The high-tech water stations track the total gallons used and indicate through a green, yellow and red light system when filters need to be changed. The inline filters are installed on traditional fountains located near the filtered-water stations or in locations where the stations cannot be installed.
  3. We will continue to provide bottled water to residential students until filters are installed throughout the residential units and will continue to make bottled water available while supplies last. We have distributed more than 377,000 bottles of water since September.
  4. We will begin an education campaign about the benefits of always letting cold water run for a nominal amount of time (flushing) before consuming it, an EPA recommendation. 
  5. We will continue to analyze the test results and develop long-term solutions, such as installing whole-building and/or inline filters where appropriate, replacing back-flow preventers or replacing outdated water mains that feed the buildings. We also will develop a long-term water-quality testing schedule—a standard does not currently exist for higher education institutions.

Tracing Progress

Last July, the University discovered that one of the older buildings on campus, Linden Hall, tested positive for lead in its water at above 15 ppb. Wanting to know if higher levels existed elsewhere on campus, the University started testing adjacent buildings and found similar results. We quickly notified the University community and started an education program, distributed bottled water to residential students, ensured that all the dining areas had filtered water sources and installed the water stations described earlier. Simultaneously, we also consulted with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and hired water-quality experts to develop a plan to implement strategies to address any lead found in the water.

The challenge for the University—and school districts, colleges and universities nationwide—is that lead was commonly used in plumbing materials prior to 1986, the year in which the use of lead became prohibited. Although the solutions will address our current situation, it will take a few more months to determine the source of lead in each building.

Public Meetings and More Information

If you have questions or concerns, please:

  • Attend a public meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 7, Student Center Ballroom, 7:30 p.m.
  • Email officeofthepresident@rowan.edu
  • Call our water-quality hotline, 856-256-5200

Below are links to useful resources and Frequently Asked Questions:

A lot of hard work and careful planning enabled us to make improvements to the water on campus. I am grateful that we were able to focus broad professional expertise and attention on our water-safety and water-quality concerns. I am proud that the University community acted quickly and responsibly to adopt safety measures and adjust to this unexpected challenge.

I assure you that the University will continue to monitor the water system and will implement long-term solutions to improve water quality for the health and safety of our community.

Thank you for your patience and concern.

 


Rowan to begin water testing in residence halls/apartments Dec. 23

(Update: Dec. 16, 2016) The University has finished testing for the presence of lead in its water in all of the academic buildings across the Glassboro campus. Our next step is to map all the pipes and test the water in residence halls/apartments, and a few remaining buildings on campus.

Below is the schedule for these two efforts. The Housing Office will email residential students more details about the exact time testing will take place at each location and how it will impact them over the next two weeks.

Building Date
Chamberlain Student Center 12/23/16
Esby Gym 12/23/16
Team House 12/23/16
Triad Hall 12/28/16
Edgewood Park Apartments 12/29/16
Holly Pointe Commons 12/30/16
International House 12/30/16
Magnolia Hall 12/30/16
Mimosa Hall 1/3/2017
Chestnut Hall 1/3/2017
Townhouses Center 1/3/2017
Evergreen Hall 1/4/2017
Oak Hall 1/4/2017
Townhouses 1/4/2017
Willow Hall 1/5/2017
Laurel Hall 1/5/2017
Mullica Hall 1/5/2017

Contact Us

For those who have questions: call us at 856-256-5200 or email officeofthepresident@rowan.edu. Thank you for your patience as we work through this issue.
 


Rowan to begin comprehensive water quality testing Oct. 31

(Update: Oct. 25, 2016) Thank you for your patience with the University as we work to improve the water quality on the Glassboro campus. In early September, we reported to the University community that there were varying levels of lead found in the water in some of our buildings. Since then, we held open forums, sent several updates and have worked with experts to address the issue.

With this update, we are pleased to announce that we have installed additional filtered water-bottle filling stations/fountains (now there are 30) and retrofitted 27 standard water fountains with filters.  Also, our comprehensive study of the campus’ plumbing infrastructure and its water will begin during the next several weeks.

Testing Schedule & Protocols

As explained in previous updates, the University has been working closely with the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection and private water-quality consultants to develop a comprehensive testing plan. The plumbing study and water testing will help experts find sources of lead and guide the University on developing a plan to address affected buildings.  

Buildings need to be vacant for at least eight hours for testing to occur, which makes drawing samples in academic and administrative buildings much easier than testing the water in residence halls and apartments. 

Testing in academic and administrative buildings will occur between Oct. 31 and Nov. 15—see schedule. Residential buildings will be tested the first week of January. 

Students who stay on campus during the winter break will be asked to find alternate housing on the day when their residences are tested—an exact schedule will be emailed to residential students before the end of the semester. The Housing Department will assist students who do not have alternative living options for the day that testing will occur.

Water samples will be collected using N.J. Department of Environmental Protection protocols. All the water will be flushed from the building. New water occupying the pipes will stand for a minimum of eight hours. Two samples will then be drawn: one immediately as the faucet/outlet is opened and the second after the water has run for 30 seconds. A more detailed explanation of the testing plan is available at rowan.edu/home/water-quality/comprehensive-tests.

Past Test Results

The Sept. 9 update to the University community explained that the University took “grab samples” from every building on the Glassboro campus as a way of determining the scope of the situation. The vast majority of results from those tests indicated the lead level in the water in these buildings is well below the EPA Action Level of 15 ppb, and in many instances no lead was detected—see building results and map

Out of an abundance of caution and although the majority of grab results fell well below the EPA’s Action Level, we will continue to provide filtered water in all residence halls and apartments. 

Because lead is not absorbed through the skin, however, showering, washing hands, washing clothing and cleaning kitchen utensils are safe even if there are elevated levels of lead in the water. 

Contact Us

For those who have questions: call us at 856-256-5200 or email officeofthepresident@rowan.edu. Thank you for your patience as we work through this issue.

 


 

Rowan adds more filtered water-bottle filling stations across campus

(Update: Sept. 22, 2016) As part of our effort to improve the water quality on Rowan’s Glassboro Campus, the University has installed additional filtered fountain/water-bottle filling stations, bringing the total to 27 with three more to be installed by the end of the fall semester—see list of locations and installation dates (UPDATED 9-22-16). There now is at least one filling station in each academic building. 

These stations have ANSI/NSF-approved filters that capture lead that may exist in the water. They also feature an electronic monitoring system that clearly shows users whether the filter is operating (a green light), close to needing to be changed (a yellow light) or needing to be changed (a red light). When the light is red, the fountain will disable itself until a new filter is installed.  

Water test results released Sept. 9 indicate that the great majority of water recently sampled throughout the main campus has no lead or contains lead levels well below the Environmental Protection Agency’s 15ppb Action Level. The University has installed these stations out of an abundance of caution. 

The University continues to work with a private water-testing firm to develop a plan for comprehensive testing across campus. We anticipate that testing will start in all of the academic and administrative buildings in October. Residence halls will be scheduled at times least disruptive for residents.

For more information, visit rowan.edu/waterquality, call the Water Quality Information Line at 856-256-5200 or email officeofthepresident@rowan.edu.
 


 

A Letter from President Ali A. Houshmand, Ph.D. - Sept. 9, 2016
Good news on water-quality tests

I am happy to report that recent tests of additional buildings across campus have provided us with some encouraging results.

As I wrote to you last week, in August we retained a water-quality testing firm to conduct water tests in Linden Hall, Bole Annex, the Carriage House, Oak Hall and Laurel Hall. The tests indicated that some faucets showed elevated levels of lead that were above the 15 parts per billion threshold that is the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection’s “Action Level.” We also tested Memorial Hall, which is adjacent to these buildings but on a different water line. Memorial’s lead levels fell under the EPA’s 15ppb threshold.

Starting on Aug. 31, we sampled water in all other buildings on our Glassboro campus. The vast majority of results from those tests indicated the lead level in the water in these buildings is well below the EPA Action Level, and in many instances no lead was detected. (Elevated levels were found in some kitchen faucets in the ROTC building, Evergreen Hall and Girard House.)

These preliminary tests were “grab” samples of at least one faucet/water outlet in each building. Although they do not meet standard protocols for water testing, grab samples simulate the habits of people getting a drink from a fountain or faucet (not running the water before drinking it) and provide some immediate insight into water status in particular locations.

On our Water Quality website, you will see a map that provides a view of test results for each building. Those highlighted in green fall below the threshold, and those in yellow are above the threshold. Those that are striped green and yellow indicate results varied from faucet to faucet. Easy-to-read spreadsheets and technical lab results also are available at rowan.edu/waterquality/test-results.

While the latest results are promising, they provide only the broadest view of the quality of water in our buildings. We are working with the water-quality testing firm to develop and implement a comprehensive study of campus.

Out of an abundance of caution and although the majority of grab results fall well below the EPA’s Action Level, we will continue to provide filtered water in all academic and administration buildings and will ensure the availability of filtered or bottled water for all residence halls until all tests are finalized. We also will continue to install filtered water bottle filling stations and retrofit many existing water fountains with filters throughout campus.

I know the last week has been disconcerting and a great inconvenience. Thank you for your patience as we work to ensure the safety of our water supply. We will provide you with more details as they become available.

For more information, please attend a campus-wide informational meeting on Monday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Mimosa Hall first-floor lounge. You also may visit the website rowan.edu/waterquality, call the information line at 856-256-5200 or write to us at officeofthepresident@rowan.edu.

Yours truly,

Ali A. Houshmand, Ph.D.
President