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Past water quality test results on the St. John’s campus released

Aug. 26, 2015

The results of Memorial University’s previous water quality testing and remediation have been posted online. These reports cover the period from May 2005 until July 2015.

This testing was conducted as a part of Memorial’s random water quality testing. Overall, there were approximately 150 samples taken and 31 reports generated in the 10-year period (this includes the three tests conducted in July 2015 in the Engineering, Music and Education buildings).

The information released today indicates testing showing elevated lead levels in four buildings at the time of testing: Queen’s College, the Utilities Annex, the Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation and St. John’s College.

Three of the samples taken in Queen’s College between 2013 and 2015 showed higher than acceptable levels of lead. That location has been receiving bottled water from the university since 2013. Thirty-five other samples taken in Queen’s College during the same period showed levels within the Canadian guidelines. 

Seven of the samples with higher than acceptable levels were in the Utilities Annex (five in 2006 and two in 2008). This led to remediation, including the removal of fixtures, installation of new supply lines and flushing of the building’s plumbing system. During the investigation of these issues, bottled water was supplied to the building. Twenty-five other samples taken at the Utilities Annex showed levels within the Canadian guidelines.

One of the samples showed an elevated lead level in the Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation in May 2005. Bottled water was supplied to the building during the investigation and the building’s plumbing system was flushed out. Eight other samples taken from this building showed levels within the Canadian guidelines.

St. John’s College has been receiving bottled water for a number of years due to lead solder in the internal plumbing system. A test was conducted in 2012 as part of renovation planning and while the building was unoccupied. The results showed an elevated level of lead in two of the four samples taken. The renovations underway include the replacement of the internal plumbing system to remove all piping with lead solder.

Information about past water quality testing, including the full text of all reports, was made available to the university’s Occupational Health and Safety Committee co-chairs today, and is now online at www.mun.ca/health_safety/waterqualityupdate.php

In July of this year, the university conducted testing in three buildings on the St. John’s campus. The results from two of the tests (Engineering and Music buildings) indicated elevated levels of lead. This led to the closure of the university on July 31. The closure was a precautionary measure to allow time to test all the buildings on Memorial’s St. John’s campus and to secure an adequate supply of bottled drinking water.

Since that time more than 200 water quality tests and more than 700 samples have been sent for testing. The results of the current testing are available online at www.mun.ca/health_safety/waterqualityupdate.php. This testing has shown nearly all buildings to have drinking water with either no detectable lead or with lead levels below the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Four buildings currently remain on water restrictions: Biotechnology, Chemistry-Physics, Computing Services and the Queen Elizabeth II Library. Work is ongoing to determine the cause of the elevated levels of lead in these buildings and bottled or chilled and filtered water stations equipped with appropriate filters will remain in place until the cause has been found and the issue rectified. Previous testing on three of these four buildings (Chemistry-Physics, Computing Services and the Queen Elizabeth II Library) indicated no issues. There is no previous data available on testing in the Biotechnology building.

“Based on the extensive testing done to date, I am confident in the quality of Memorial’s drinking water supply,” said Kent Decker, vice-president (administration and finance). “A team of highly qualified experts are working to determine the cause of the isolated issues that we have identified and we will continue to share the results with the university community.”

Earlier this month the university committed to developing an ongoing, systematic water quality testing protocol. This protocol development will be led by the University Health and Safety Committee. This committee is comprised of faculty, staff and senior leadership. The protocol will be developed with advice from faculty experts as well as advisors from the province and Eastern Health. This protocol will also include regular, transparent communication with the university community.