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Water testing in residence halls

The following message was sent to the student body by Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler - Ed.

Dear Students,

Below is a message we sent to students in Jefferson Hall earlier today. To ensure you have accurate information, we wanted to share this with the entire student body.

Upon seeing news reports about water quality on college campuses in other parts of the country, residence life staff at William & Mary asked the university’s environment, health and safety office to conduct sampling in our residence halls over winter break. These tests were done voluntarily and at our request.

According to results received this week, most of the 90 locations that were sampled were found to have no lead present. However, initial samples taken in two locations at Jefferson Hall did exceed the EPA’s regulatory limit (“threshold level”). It is important to note that those samples were taken after the water had been sitting idle in the distribution system during winter break, when the presence of contaminants would likely be elevated. Second samples taken at the same locations after running the faucets showed significantly lower levels. In fact, lead was no longer detectable at one of the locations. In the second location, the sample was below “threshold level” but above “action level,” which is not a violation of drinking water standards.

Although there is no immediate health threat, we are asking students in Jefferson to take precautions while we collect another set of samples and determine what additional steps should be taken.

Your health and safety are of utmost importance to us, and I am grateful to our professionals in residence life and environment, health and safety for proactively taking steps to ensure the quality of our water.


Ginger Ambler

Virginia M. Ambler, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs
The College of William & Mary

From: W&M Residence Life
Sent: Friday, January 20, 2017 4:29 PM
To: {Residents of Jefferson}

Subject: Water Testing in Residence Halls

Jefferson Hall residents,

William & Mary’s Environment, Health & Safety office performed a quality assurance assessment of drinking water in residence halls over winter break. Although the results of that testing showed no lead present in most of the 90 samples that were taken, two locations in Jefferson Hall — the sink faucets in the third-floor kitchen and the first-floor head resident apartment kitchen — were found to have lead levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory limit (“threshold level”) of 0.05 milligrams per liter.

Those levels were found in water drawn from the tap after sitting in the building distribution system for an extended period when the university was closed during winter break. We tested the water at this time – after it had been sitting in the building’s pipes over the break – because we wanted to make sure our results reflected the most likely scenario for higher lead levels. Follow-up samples from the two locations, taken after running the water for two minutes, showed significantly reduced levels of lead. In the first-floor kitchen, lead was no longer detectable. In the third-floor kitchen, the sample contained 0.0229 mg/L, well below the EPA’s threshold limit but still above the EPA’s “action level” of 0.015 mg/L.

It is important to note that an action-level exceedance is not a violation of drinking water standards but does require additional actions to minimize lead in the drinking water at Jefferson Hall.  The additional actions we plan to take include:

  • Re-sampling the water distribution system in Jefferson Hall next week.
  • Investigating and correcting potential sources of lead contamination in any location that exceeds the action level, pending the results of the second set of samples.

In the interim, students in Jefferson Hall should take the following precautions:

  • Run the tap until water is cold to the touch before using it for drinking or cooking. This is especially important after the water has been standing in the pipes overnight or more than six hours.
  • Use only cold tap water for cooking and drinking. Hot water can dissolve lead more quickly than cold water. If you need hot water, draw cold water from the tap and heat it on the stove.

It is safe to use the hot water for showering and other non-consumption purposes.

We will update you on the results of the additional samples when we receive them and advise you of any corrective actions that may be taken based upon these results. For additional information, here is a Q&A on our website, We will update this page with additional information as we get it.

Deb Boykin
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of Residence Life