Letter to the Editor: Contamination without communication?
To the Editors of the Justice:
We are writing to address concerns and clarify procedures that were reported in the Justice’s Feb. 8, 2022 story, Contamination without communication? University leaves students and staff out of the loop about high lead levels and water fountain closures .
Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), along with Facilities takes the safety of Brandeis staff and students very seriously, and it is for this reason that we proactively tested water fountains throughout campus, starting in July, in accordance with best practices outlined by the U.S. EPA for restoring water quality in buildings with low or no water use for a period of time. This was important to do given the significantly reduced use of these buildings during COVID, but testing and inspecting our buildings and systems happens at various times throughout the year in a variety of forms. When results indicate the need for corrective or preventive actions, we take appropriate measures. In this case, when contaminant levels were high fountains were shut down/off.
The Justice story suggests that the entire campus should have been notified about the isolated problems in water fountains. It’s important to understand that using shut-offs and signs to alert potential users, and communicating directly with users in a building, are considered best practices when an isolated water issue is found and is being addressed. When a problem is isolated - and our campus-wide inspection showed that it was - the most effective way to inform users is to do so at the point of use. Subsequent to the discovery of the high levels of lead, water coolers were purchased for Brown Social Science Building once water was shut down and placed on each floor of the building as soon as they arrived.
Although the lead time of fountains has been long, due to COVID, fountains have remained off since testing results were identified and will stay off until new fountains can be replaced. Thirteen new fountains did arrive this month and installation will be starting soon. Brown Social Science fountains will remain off until the large construction project is complete. The water fountains in the surrounding buildings have been tested and remain open.
EHS and Facilities has and will continue to practice transparency on all safety concerns in accordance with code and standard practices. Facilities responds to emergencies immediately upon notification, and prioritizes non-emergency requests accordingly. We will look to the appropriate departments on campus (i.e. Communications, Student Affairs, Student Union) to address improved means of communication across campus. It has and never will be our intent to withhold information on safety issues as we all hold the health of our entire community dear to us and our mission on campus.