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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU, Environment Department acting on lead levels in some tap water

New Mexico State University and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) are working together in response to tests showing levels of lead in tap water above the Environmental Protection Agency's action level in some units of Vista Del Monte apartments on the main campus in Las Cruces.

pus water supply itself does not have elevated levels of lead, said Rich MacRorie, director of facilities operation. The readings above the EPA action level at the tap in some VDM units are believed to be a result of lead solder used in plumbing joints.

"We are working with the NMED to verify the test results and determine what remediation might be undertaken," MacRorie said.

Tap water samples were taken from 60 apartments in sections A through E of the VDM apartment complex on the south side of the campus. Of those, 25 showed lead levels above the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion.

Under the EPA's Lead and Copper Rule, the test results require the university to increase monitoring, undertake additional efforts to control corrosion, and inform the public. NMED will provide an action plan covering these requirements. The university expects to do more testing than required by the action plan, and will look at various remediation possibilities, said Ben Woods, vice president for human and physical resources.

The VDM apartments that were subject to the monitoring were built in the early 1980s and have been used primarily as housing for unmarried students, but several families currently live in the complex. In addition, since fall 2003, four units of VDM have been used for the university's Children's Village, a pre-school program operated by the NMSU College of Education.

The Children's Village units were not among those initially tested, but samples have now been taken from those units for analysis and immediate steps will be taken to assure that the children are not exposed to lead levels above the EPA action level, Woods said. Because infants and young children are more susceptible to the toxic effects of lead than adults are, the university will install reverse osmosis filtration systems in those units, replace the pipes that serve the units, and then test again. In the meantime the program will move temporarily to a location in O'Donnell Hall.

Reverse osmosis filters also will be installed in apartments used by families.

None of the water samples from VDM showed a problem with copper, which also is covered by the EPA's Lead and Copper Rule.

The quality of the university's well-water supply is reported annually in the Consumer Confidence Report. Tests have shown that lead levels in the water supply are well below the EPA action level, MacRorie said.

Lead, a metal found in natural deposits, is commonly used in household plumbing materials and water service lines. The greatest exposure to lead is swallowing or breathing in lead paint chips and dust, but lead in drinking water can also cause adverse health affects, according to the EPA.

Information about lead in drinking water can be found on the EPA's Web site at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/lead/index.html.

Another source of information on lead contamination is the National Center for Environmental Health at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/spotLights/leadinwater.htm