During the first Student Assembly senate meeting of the semester, SA President Eboni Brown ’17 encouraged senators to pass the Hydrating Jefferson Act to help students living in Jefferson Hall.
On Jan. 20, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of Residence Life Deb Boykin ’76 M.Ed. ’82 emailed residents of Jefferson Hall to inform them that water quality tests conducted over break found lead levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory threshold in two locations.
The initial lead levels reported did not violate the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act, but because they crossed the regulatory threshold of 0.015 milligrams per liter, the College retested samples from Jefferson Hall locations. After a second round of testing, only one of the two kitchens affected still had water crossing the regulatory threshold. By the second test, the lead levels in both kitchens had decreased.
While Boykin said in her email that students were safe to drink and shower in the water, she cautioned students to only cook and drink cold water and to allow the water from the taps to run for 30 seconds before using it.
Although the water is safe to drink, Brown said that she heard from Jefferson Hall Orientation Aides and students that many felt uncomfortable drinking tap water. She said that because of her personal experiences with unclean drinking water, she felt inspired to do something to help.
“I talked to [Director of Housing Operations Chris] Durden in Residence Life and asked him if this would help and he said that it wasn’t necessary as long as they ran the water for 30 seconds,” Brown said. “But for me, even though the drinking water wasn’t necessarily impacted, or the main thing, I just know that coming from some place where you’re afraid to drink water or even brush your teeth with the water … I know that fear, I just wanted to do something small for them.”
The Hydrating Jefferson Act was co-sponsored by Sen. Annelise Yackow ’18 and Chairman of the Senate Danny O’Dea ’18. After O’Dea introduced the bill, senators voted by unanimous consent to move the bill to old business where it was then passed by a vote of unanimous consent.
The bill allocates $150 from SA reserves to purchase cases of water bottles for residents of Jefferson Hall. These funds cover 32 cases of water bottles, providing each of Jefferson’s eight halls with four cases of water bottles.
This is just in the meantime, a short-term fix until [the College] gets the water fixed,” O’Dea said.
“This is just in the meantime, a short-term fix until [the College] gets the water fixed,” O’Dea said.
According to University Spokesperson Suzanne Seurattan, the College re-tested the water over the weekend and sent it out for testing. She said that she believes the third round of test results — which included 28 samples from the two affected locations — will be back within the next week.
Seurattan also said that it was important for students to know that there were still no health risks involved with the current water situation in Jefferson Hall.
“While we understand some students may have concern over the water in Jefferson Hall, they should be assured there is no immediate health risk,” Seurattan said in an email. “The water is within the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water standards. Running the water cold to the touch before drinking it is a precaution that may be taken and something we encourage the residents of Jefferson Hall to do as an added safety measure.”