GW officials decided Wednesday to refrain from testing campus drinking water for toxins, as D.C. officials scramble to determine the threats posed by the city’s antiquated lead pipes.
The University based its decision on information supplied by the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, which found that all on-campus pipes are not made of the lead that has caused contamination problems in other parts of the city.
Facilities employees are in the process of verifying the information, and have not yet found any contaminated pipes on campus.
Bob Ludwig, interim director of Media Relations, said the University received the information from WASA last Friday, and are set finish inspecting the entire on-campus water system “sometime Thursday.”
“The plumbers went through every residence hall and residence townhouse and visually checked the pipes,” said Ludwig, adding that GW’s plumbers have yet to check all administrative and academic buildings.
The decision follows recent concerns over high amounts of lead in parts of the District’s water grid. Last week, five D.C. residents tested positive for elevated lead levels, and investigations have found lead in the water supply of scores of city buildings, according to The Washington Post.
WASA officials were unavailable for comment, but according to WASA’s Web site, the District’s only water supplier is in the process of replacing more than 500 lead service lines scattered throughout the city.
Jerome Paulson, a GW associate professor of pediatrics who was called to testify at two D.C. City Council hearings on lead poisoning earlier this month, said WASA has failed to effectively deal with lead contamination.
“I think the oversight of the water and sewer authority has been lacking,” he said.
Paulson recommended that WASA test all homes and buildings that are serviced by lead pipes.
Exposure to elevated lead levels in adults can result in high blood pressure, reproductive damage, comas and seizures. Paulson said he does not believe students and older D.C. residents will be harmed by drinking city water because lead levels are currently not high enough to pose serious health risks.
“I think the risk for young adults such as GW students is low,” he said.
Some students said they were unconcerned about reports of lead in city water.
“I’ve grown up in D.C. so I’m not generally afraid of the water,”
sophomore Arin Liberman said. “Sometimes the tap water from my kitchen sink is a little yellow though.”
Senior Tony Nutts said he believes the lead levels are not GW’s problem.
“I don’t really think they can do anything about it,” he said.
But a few students expressed concern over GW’s drinking water.
“I wouldn’t drink the water here … in general,” sophomore Alicia Shay said.
Ludwig said that while students face no danger from GW’s water, they can obtain information about lead poisoning from the GW campus advisories Web site at http://www.gwu.edu/~gwalert/.
Students concerned about campus drinking water can also get a free testing kit from WASA by calling (202) 787-2688.