Drinking Water Management

Western's Drinking Water Management Program

Updated November 2021

In the summer of 2019, Western’s Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) department commenced sampling of drinking water sources for lead concentration.  Over 900 locations have been sampled thus far.  Testing was interrupted by the pandemic and the goal is now to complete sampling by in the winter of 2021-22.  Please see below for more information on sampling locations.  The summary of the results are as follows:

  • Approximately 94% of sample results are below the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) of lead. 
  • Mitigation action steps for sources at or above 15 ppb depend on location
  • For a comprehensive list of locations tested in 2019 and 2020 click hereWhen a sample result is “ND” it indicates that lead was not detected above 1 ppb.

A large number of Western’s facilities were sampled in 2008 and 2013. Additional resources were requested to expand the sampling scope to include those locations where there exists a potential for vulnerable populations to overlap with buildings built prior to 1988, as well as buildings that were built between 1988 and 2011.

While Western’s Drinking Water Management Program covers all campus buildings, with many locations already having been sampled, current monitoring efforts will prioritize the oldest locations on campus which serve the youngest populations. 

Children are the most susceptible to the effects of lead. Their bodies are still undergoing development and they tend to absorb more lead from the environment. Therefore, testing will prioritize older buildings that serve children’s programs including daycare and overnight programs, followed by residences, then academic and administrative facilities.

The City of Bellingham boasts some of the cleanest and safest drinking water in the country. The City works with Western’s Institute for Watershed Studies (IWS) to monitor water quality trends in Lake Whatcom. IWS provides detailed annual reports, which are made available on the City of Bellingham website.

Since 2008, Western EHS has taken additional steps to monitor the campus’ drinking water. In October of 2018, Western contracted with an outside consulting company to comprehensively review its Drinking Water Management Program, using EPA-recommended best practices. While there is no federal law requiring universities to test their drinking water. Western determined it in the best interest of the campus community to test priority sites on campus.

Water Sampling Information:

A large number of Western’s priority facilities were sampled in 2008 and 2013. Additional resources will be requested to expand the sampling scope to include those locations where there exists a potential for vulnerable populations to overlap with buildings built prior to 1988, as well as buildings that were built between 1988 and 2011. The goal would be to complete sampling by December 2021.

The current sampling project will use three different sample types. They are defined as follows:

  • Initial Samples - “first draw” samples collected directly from the tap after a period of no usage. These are used to initially screen the fixture.
  • Flush Samples – samples that represent the water within the building plumbing. Collected if Initial Samples produce elevated results. Flush Samples are collected following a 30 second flush prior to sample collection.
  • Mitigation Steps – locations that test above the EPA’s recommended limit will be tagged out of service, removed, marked as “Non-Potable Water, Do Not Drink”, or replaced with a certified lead-free fixture.
  • Confirmation Samples – samples collected after mitigation steps have been completed, and used to confirm that mitigation was successful. If Confirmation Sample results are elevated, fixtures remain out of service for drinking purposes until mitigation actions succeed.

Mitigation steps are taken to reduce the lead content in drinking water where elevated sample results have been observed. These steps can range from implementing a flushing program to help reduce lead levels that may increase while fixtures are not in use, cleaning aerators regularly, removing the fixture from service completely, replacing the fixture or much more complicated plumbing fixes.  Fixtures where initial samples have produced elevated results are not returned to service for drinking purposes until confirmation samples have produced a result that is less than EPA recommended levels.

Additional Information: 

Drinking Water Management Plan

FAQ

Contact Western's Drinking Water Management Program