Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect the latest testing recommendations and availability for UNC campus community members. The original version was published on Monday, October 10.


After initial testing at the start of the fall semester, the presence of lead in some water fixtures at UNC has led the university to conduct widespread assessment of its water quality. Three water fountains in the historic Wilson Library initially returned tests with noticeable levels of the chemical in late August, prompting UNC to shut down the fixtures and begin testing similar ones across campus. Since then, several other fountains and sinks at the university have similarly returned test with lead detection.

What Does It Mean?

Lead in drinking water is typically attributed to three sources: lead pipes, lead solder and lead brass fittings. If plumbing materials are corroded, lead can enter the water near the exit from the fixture, although this does not impact other pipes in a building. Blake Hodge, the communications specialist the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA), said the issue is localized to the various fixtures on campus and the broader region’s water quality is not at risk. While OWASA is supporting the university in their sampling efforts, he said sampling of water leaving the Jones Ferry Road treatment plant and in homes around the service area is coming back clear of lead. “We certainly understand that seeing these repeated results can be concerning for the community,” said Hodge, “so we want to assure everybody that the water we are providing is meeting all state and federal regulations.” Hodge said lead often enters the water not from its distribution source, but from plumbing materials in fixtures or infrastructure, like pipes, lead solder and lead brass fittings. Whenever water sits in a fixture or pipe for an extended period of time, he said there is a chance the chemical will leech from the item into the water. While it takes a significant amount of lead to be ingested to cause health problems, the Environmental Protection Agency states there is no safe exposure to the toxic metal in water and exposure can cause health problems. The Centers for Disease Control also have a group of people considered “high risk” for falling ill due to lead exposure. UNC says that anyone in the “high risk” category, as well as people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or work in the affected buildings, may want to consider being tested for the lead levels in their blood. After initially prioritizing those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, the university now has health tests for lead available to all faculty, staff and students who have used the affected buildings. Faculty and staff who are seeking testing should contact the University Employee Occupational Health Clinic, while students and post-doctoral fellows should call Campus Health. Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz told Chapelboro on September 29 that while the addressing of these infrastructure and water quality issues is going to be a long and “evolving process,” he assured the campus community that “we’ve got the best people working on it.” “There’s a lot of work that’s been done over the past few weeks,” said Guskiewicz. “We’re pleased that those individuals who have been tested, there’s been no detectable levels found [in them] and we continue to test the actual drinking fountains and water in these buildings.”

What Testing Phase is UNC Currently On?

The Environment, Health and Safety division’s lead testing across campus is being conducted in phases, according to UNC. Phase One, which consisted of checking water fixtures that potentially had lead components due to their age and construction, is reportedly complete. UNC said Phase Two is the review and testing of water fixtures in buildings built during or before 1930. The final phase will be testing water fixtures in buildings built in or prior to 1990. UNC Environment, Health and Safety said it completed Phase Two of testing on Friday, October 28. Work on Phase Three is in progress.

Sites With Reported Lead

As part of its response, UNC’s department of Environment, Health and Safety established a web page tracking the lead contamination alerts shared to the campus community. The drinking fountains listed at the buildings have been taken out of service while the university works to improve the quality. UNC said sinks with detectable levels of lead will not be shut off for washing hands, but will have signage around them urging people to not drink from the sink.

Below is a comprehensive list of which UNC buildings the university says have returned tests with detectable lead, with the specific fixture that failed the test and the date an alert was publicly shared.


SITTERSON HALL

  • Breakroom sink in Room 325, kitchen sink and bottle filler in SN021, conference room sink in SN252, breakroom sink in SN357 (November 3)
  • Breakroom sink in Room FB137 (November 29)

GRAHAM MEMORIAL HALL

  • Drinking fountain near Room 109 (November 9)
  • Kitchen sink in Room 009 (November 29)

720 MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. BOULEVARD

  • Breakroom sink near Room 102A (November 29)

730 MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. BOULEVARD

  • Drinking fountain near Room 208 (November 29)

ALDERMAN RESIDENCE HALL

  • Drinking fountain near Room 219 (November 29)

MICHAEL HOOKER RESEARCH CENTER

  • Sink near Room 2005, sink near Room 3005 (November 29)

HYDE HALL

  • Kitchen sink in Room 105, kitchen sink in Room 106 (November 29)

LINEBERGER CANCER RESEARCH CENTER

  • Drinking fountain near Room 11-127 (November 29)

MacNIDER HALL

  • Drinking fountain near Room 438 (November 29)

BRINKHOUS-BULLITT BUILDING

  • Drinking fountain near “Stairs 2,” two drinking fountains near Room 252, drinking fountain near Room 524, breakroom sink in Room 619, breakroom sink in Room 712, drinking fountain near Room 713, breakroom sink in Room 819, drinking fountain near “Stairs 18th,” drinking fountain near Room 922, breakroom sink in Room 1015, breakroom sink in Room 1104, water dispenser in Room 1104, breakroom sink in Room 1105, drinking fountain near Room 1109, drinking fountain near Room 1119 (November 22)

MEDICAL SCHOOL WINGS

  • C: Breakroom sink in Room 062 (November 22)
  • D: Kitchen sink in Room 370, drinking fountain near Room 378A (November 22)
  • E and F: Drinking fountain near Room 2 (November 22)

BONDURANT HALL

  • Two drinking fountains near Room 3070 (November 22)

MEDICAL RESEARCH BUILDING B

  • Kitchen sink in Room 101 (November 22)

STONE CENTER

  • Drinking fountain near Room 206 (November 21)

GENERAL STOREROOM at 111 AIRPORT DRIVE

  • Drinking fountain in Room 106 (November 21)

MOREHEAD PLANETARIUM ADDITION BUILDING

  • Sink in back kitchen, sink in front kitchen (November 21)

BURNETT-WOMACK BUILDING at 160 DENTAL CIRCLE

  • Drinking fountain near Room 7003 (November 18)

GARDNER HALL

  • Kitchen sink in Room 211 (November 18)

GILES HORNEY BUILDING ANNEX

  • Drinking fountain near Room 138 (November 18)

TOTTEN GARDEN CENTER at NORTH CAROLINA BOTANICAL GARDENS

  • Bottle filler near Room 5A (November 18)

HINTON JAMES RESIDENCE HALL

  • Kitchen sink in Room 138, bottle filler near Room 584, kitchen sink in Room 601, bottle filler near Room 684, bottle filler near Room 984, kitchen sink in Room 1004, bottle filler near Room 1084, drinking fountain near Room 1084 (November 17)

CRAIGE RESIDENCE HALL

  • Kitchen sink in Room 054, kitchen sink in Room 287, kitchen sink in Room 383, kitchen sink in Room 515, kitchen sink in Room 586 (November 17)

MORRISON RESIDENCE HALL

  • Drinking fountain near Room 110 (November 17)

TATE-TURNER-KURALT BUILDING

  • Kitchen sink near Room 131, drinking fountain near Room 480 (November 17)

BYNUM HALL

  • Breakroom sink in Room 153 (November 17)

MOREHEAD PLANETARIUM

  • Bottle filler near Room 198 and elevator, drinking fountain in Room 2031, three kitchen sinks near Room 301 (November 16)

KENAN CHEMISTRY LABS

  • Breakroom sink in Room A808, breakroom sink in Room B430, breakroom sink in Room C249, breakroom sink in Room C440, breakroom sink in Room C448 (November 16)

CARROLL HALL

  • Kitchen sink in Room 129 (November 16)

WHITEHEAD HALL

  • Drinking fountain near Room 107 (November 16)

HAZARDOUS MATERIALS STORAGE FACILITY

  • Breakroom sink in Room 101 (November 16)

HANES HALL

  • Water bottle filler near room storage, water bottle filler near Room 220, drinking fountain near Room 220, breakroom sink in Room 408 (November 14)

EHRINGHAUS RESIDENCE HALL

  • Kitchen sink near Room G4C, kitchen sink in Room 111, kitchen sink in Room 533 (November 10)

KERR HALL

  • Sink in Room 1324 (November 10)

McGAVRAN-GREENBURG HALL

  • Drinking fountain near Room 3221D (November 10)

ROSENAU HALL

  • Drinking fountain near Room 143 (November 10)

AIRPORT TRAILER #24

  • Sink in Room 0.5B, sink in Room 1B (November 9)

AIRPORT HANGAR #2 at ESTES DRIVE EXTENSION

  • Drinking fountain in Room 103 (November 9)

ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE BUILDING at 104 AIRPORT DRIVE

  • Drinking fountain in Room 5, sink in Room 6 (November 9)

NORTH CHILLER PLANT

  • Drinking fountain in chiller room (November 9)

GREENLAW HALL

  • Break room sink in Mailroom (Room 204), break room sink in Room 224, drinking fountain near Room 440 (November 9)

DEY HALL

  • Drinking fountain near Room 117, drinking fountain near Room 219, drinking fountain near Room 419 (November 9)

AVERY RESIDENCE HALL

  • Kitchen sink in Room 3B, drinking fountain near Room 3B (November 9)

DEAN SMITH CENTER

  • Drinking fountain near Room 103, water dispenser in Room 113, kitchen sink in Room 2118, two drinking fountains in Room 357, drinking fountain in Room 359A (November 7)

MOREHEAD CHEMISTRY LABS

  • Drinking fountain near Room 192F, drinking fountain near Room 394A (November 7)

COBB RESIDENCE HALL

  • Two drinking fountains near Room 417 (November 7)

BRAUER HALL

  • Breakroom sink in Room 012 (November 7)

ENERGY SERVICES BUILDING

  • Conference room sink in Room 112 (November 7)

FIRST DENTAL BUILDING

  • Drinking fountain near Room 1090 (November 7)

GRAHAM RESIDENCE HALL

  • Kitchen sink in Room 175 (November 4)

MANLY RESIDENCE HALL

  • Kitchen sink in Room 107 (November 4)

TAYLOR CAMPUS HEALTH BUILDING

  • Two drinking fountains in Room 24, breakroom sink in Room 35, breakroom sink in Room 110, breakroom sink in Room 127, breakroom sink in Room 146 (November 3)

OLD WEST RESIDENCE HALL

  • Kitchen sink in Room 104 (November 3)

MITCHELL HALL

  • Lab sink in Room 5, lab sink in Room 7, lab sink in Room 9, lab sink in Room 24, breakroom sink in Room 105A, breakroom sink in Room 108, breakroom sink in Room 110, breakroom sink in Room 207A, lab sink in Room 214, breakroom sink in Room 310, breakroom sink in Room 313, breakroom sink in Room 314, breakroom sink in Room 327 (November 3)

KENAN STADIUM

  • Kitchen sink in Room 101C, kitchen sink in Room 104C, kitchen sink in Room 108C, kitchen sink in Room 109C, kitchen sink in Room 110C, drinking fountain in Room 112, drinking fountain in Room 119, kitchen sink in Room 120C, kitchen sink in Room 123C, kitchen sink in Room 127C, kitchen sink in Room 129C, kitchen sink in Room 130C, drinking fountain in Room 131, kitchen sink in Room 208C, kitchen sink in Room 210, breakroom sink in Room 221, breakroom sink in Room 223, kitchen sink in Room 227C, kitchen sink in Room 229, drinking fountain in Room 507, two sinks in the Central Kitchen area, kitchen sink in Rams Club Section A, breakroom sink in South Koury Box (November 3)

COATES BUILDING on E. FRANKLIN STREET

  • Sink in kitchen, drinking fountain in Room 207 (November 3)

ACKLAND ART MUSEUM

  • Sink in Room 17, two drinking fountains in Room 32, two drinking fountains in Room 130 (November 3)

FOREST THEATER

  • Outdoor water dispenser (November 2)

MURPHEY HALL

  • Drinking fountain near Room 2, drinking fountain near Room 221 (November 2)

EVERGREEN HOUSE by SWAIN PARKING LOT

  • Drinking fountain in Room 102, sink in Room 104 (November 2)

WILSON HALL

  • Drinking fountain in Room B31, sink in Room 110, water bottle filler in Room 133, two sinks in Room 233, sink in Room 237, drinking fountain near Room 434, two sinks in Room 442 (November 1)

SWAIN HALL

  • Sink in Room 112B (November 1)

HANES ART CENTER

  • Sink in breakroom L 102A, three sinks in Room 301 (November 1)

COKER HALL

  • Sink in Lab Room 108, sink in Room 301A, sink in Room 309, sink in Room 401B, sink in Room 409, sink in Room 411, sink in Room 416, sink in Room 418 (November 1)

CHEEK-CLARK BUILDING on W. CAMERON AVENUE

  • Drinking fountain near Room 12006 (October 31)

CAROLINA HALL

  • Sink in Room 3 breakroom (October 31)

BINGHAM HALL

  • Two drinking fountains near Room 113, two drinking fountains near Room 214, water bottle filler near Room 315 (October 31)

HICKERSON HOUSE on BATTLE LANE

  • Kitchen sink (October 27)

214 HENDERSON STREET HOUSE

  • Kitchen sink (October 27)

134 EAST FRANKLIN STREET

  • Drinking fountain near Room 116, sink in Conference Room 206 (October 25)

ALUMNI HALL

  • Sink in Room 209, drinking fountain near Room 313 (October 25)

NEW EAST

  • Kitchen sink near Room 105 (October 20)

STACY RESIDENCE HALL

  • 1st floor drinking fountain near Room 107 (October 14)

SPENCER RESIDENCE HALL

  • 1st floor drinking fountain near Room 108, 3rd floor drinking fountain near Room 313, 3rd floor drinking fountain near Room 327 (October 14)
  • 57 in-room sinks (October 18)

HENRY OWL BUILDING

  • Room 205 kitchen sink (October 14)

HILL HALL

  • Room 104 A kitchen sink (October 14)

BATTLE HALL

  • Room 310 kitchen sink (October 14)

ISAAC M. TAYLOR HALL

  • Basement water cooler, 5th floor drinking fountain near Room 594 (September 26)

CARRINGTON HALL

  • Ground floor drinking fountain, 1st floor drinking fountain near Room 104, 2nd floor drinking fountain near Room 206A, 2nd floor drinking fountain near Room 254A, 3rd floor drinking fountain near Room 306, 4th floor drinking fountain near Room 454A, 4th floor drinking fountain near Room 411, 5th floor drinking fountain near Room 511 (September 26)
  • Ground floor drinking fountain near G800, Room 104 sink, Room 3410 drinking fountain (October 10)

SOUTH BUILDING

  • Basement porcelain drinking fountain (September 19)

PHILLIPS HALL

  • 1st floor drinking fountain near Room 105 (September 19)

MANNING HALL

  • Basement drinking fountain (September 19)

FORDHAM HALL

  • 3rd floor drinking fountain (September 19)
  • 2nd floor conference room (Room 212) sink (October 10)

HAMILTON HALL

  • 2nd floor drinking fountain, 4th floor drinking fountain, 5th floor drinking fountain (September 19)
  • Room 152 staff lounge sink, Room 359 sink, Room 569 sink (October 10)

WILSON LIBRARY

  • 2nd floor fountain, 3rd floor historic drinking fountain, 3rd floor historic drinking fountain (August 30)
  • 2nd floor annex drinking fountain, 1st floor restroom sink, 2nd floor Room 506 sink, 2nd floor Room 505 sink, two 2nd floor Room 507J sinks, 2nd floor men’s restroom sink, two 3rd floor Room 707 sinks, 4th floor women’s restroom sink, 4th floor annex restroom sink, 5th floor annex restroom sink, 7th annex restroom sink, 8th annex restroom sink, 10th annex restroom sink (September 9)

 

For more details and full alerts to the UNC campus community about lead contamination, visit the dedicated web page on the Environment, Health and Safety department’s website. To search through all conducted tests, visit this UNC web page. For resources offered to the community by OWASA, visit the agency’s website.


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