Lead Analyses in Drinking Water

Lead Analyses in Drinking Water

For the last couple of years clean drinking water issues have dominated our national news in light of lead contamination in Flint Michigan.  Over the last year, SUNY Geneseo EHS and Facilities personnel have fielded a fair amount of inquiries about the safety of our drinking water on campus.  In an effort to be proactive, EHS and Facilities have teamed up to sample older fixtures on campus from September through December 2016.  Since lead piping and lead solder has been banned since 1986, we focused our efforts mainly in older buildings on campus.   Learn more about lead.

Lead Regulations

Lead in drinking water is regulated by the following:

  • Safe Water Drinking Act, 1974, required EPA to establish rules for contaminants in drinking water (applies to water suppliers, e.g. Village of Geneseo).

Later components of the Safe Water Drinking Act include:

  • The Lead Ban (1986); banned all leaded plumbing products (e.g. piping and solder) for new installations and repair.  Note:  “Lead Free” solder is allowed to contain 0.2% lead and “Lead Free” pipe is allowed to contain up to 8% lead. 
  • The Lead Contamination and Control Act, 1988; rules that furthered the reduction of lead at preK-12 schools.  EPA recommends that fixtures supplying drinking water be taken out of service when lead levels exceed 20 ppb. 
  • The Lead and Copper Rule, 1991; minimizes the corrosivity of the water and the amount of lead and copper contained within the water (applies to water suppliers, e.g. Village of Geneseo).   EPA sets forth an action level of 15 ppb lead. 

Sampling Protocol

Fixtures were required to be dormant for a period between 8-18 hours.  A laboratory provided 250 mL sample bottle was used for collection.  Notations about date and time of collection, sample number and sampler were recorded on the sample bottle. 

Samples were analyzed on a Perkin Elmer Elan 9000 ICP mass spectrometer, method 200.8.

Buildings Tested

  1. Allegany
  2. Blake
  3. Brodie
  4. Clark A&B
  5. College Union
  6. Erie
  7. Erwin
  8. Fraser
  9. Genesee
  10. Heating Plant
  11. Jones
  12. Lauderdale
  13. Livingston
  14. Mary Jemison
  15. Merritt
  16. Milne
  17. Nassau
  18. Newton
  19. Niagara
  20. Onondaga
  21. Ontario
  22. Schrader
  23. South
  24. Steuben
  25. Sturges
  26. Suffolk
  27. Wadsworth
  28. Wayne
  29. Welles
  30. Wyoming

Red Jacket is closed pending rehabilitation


Sample Results

Most results were below the 15 parts per billion limit except for 15 samples.  Regardless of the ultimate outcome, all fixtures that were above the action limit were turned off and not accessible to the public.  

For elevated samples, EPA recommends substantial flushing and re-analyses post flush which was performed in some instances.  See results


This whole process has caused the campus to review water fountain usage, or the lack there of, in both residential and academic settings.  Facilities will be installing a new water fountain in many residence halls with a bottle filling station.  Some less used fountains may be taken out of service.   Some academic areas will receive water fountains with bottle fillers as well.   In addition, a preventative maintenance plan was developed to flush certain sinks and fountains that were found to be elevated attributed to low usage activity.

For more information: