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Michigan State UniversityMichigan State UniversityInfrastructure Planning and Facilities

Commitment to Water Quality

MSU is committed to providing our campus community with safe, reliable and healthy water. In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, EPA regulations limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) establishes limits for contaminants in bottled water, which provide the same protection for public health.

The state and EPA require MSU to test our water on a regular basis to ensure its safety. MSU meets all the monitoring and reporting requirements for both state and federal regulations.
In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, it is understandable that the MSU community is concerned about its water quality. Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF) Power and Water has a highly qualified staff of water utility professionals who understand the importance the water supply plays in the overall quality of life for our community. We are dedicated to providing our community with the highest quality drinking water, and continue to meet or exceed all state and federal regulatory requirements.

There is no detectable lead in MSU drinking water when it enters the distribution system. Water supplied to MSU comes from a consistent source of groundwater, drawn from wells located deep within the Saginaw sandstone aquifer. Because water is naturally corrosive, if small amounts of lead are present in existing plumbing materials, lead could enter into your drinking water if allowed to sit for several hours. To prevent this, MSU employs a comprehensive corrosion protection regimen, consisting of the use of phosphate additives. MSU has been testing for lead and other containments since 1992, and the water results consistently have been in full compliance with the regulations, with lead levels below the action level of .015 parts per billion (ppb).
In early 2016, MSU performed additional sampling that surpassed EPA and MDEQ requirements, including specific water tests of facilities where young children are present. All sample points consistently had levels below the action level, deeming them safe.

Sources of drinking water

The water source for MSU is groundwater drawn from the Saginaw aquifers. These underground water-bearing formations are continually replenished with water through the normal hydrologic cycle. In Michigan and the Great Lakes Basin, we are fortunate to have an abundant supply of fresh water as compared with other areas of the world. The Great Lakes Basin contains 20 percent of the world’s fresh water. MSU’s water system uses 17 groundwater wells, each with pumping capacities ranging from 400 to 850 gallons per minute. MSU closely monitors the source water and the treated drinking water to ensure a high level of quality and safety is maintained. Once treated, the water is pumped to campus through a network of water mains, consisting of approximately 67 miles of pipes that range 6-16-inches.

The Brody Neighborhood, University Village and the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center are supplied by the East Lansing Meridian Water and Sewer Authority. For more information, refer to the City of East Lansing Water Quality Report.

Facilities along the southwest boarder of campus at Forest and Collins roads, including the Henry Center for Executive Development are supplied by Lansing Board of Water and Light. For more information, refer to the Lansing Board of Water and Light Quality report.

Steps MSU takes to ensure water safety and quality

MSU’s water treatment process consists of the addition of small quantities of chlorine, fluoride, phosphate and sodium hydroxide. Water is naturally corrosive; water corrosion is controlled by adding phosphate. These treatment techniques are used to promote public health and to improve aesthetic quality of the water in the distribution system and buildings.
Chlorination is a chemical process used to control disease-causing microorganisms by killing or inactivating them, and is unquestionably the most important step in drinking water treatment. Chlorination is the most common method of disinfection in North America.

Significant strides in public health are directly linked to the adoption of drinking water chlorination. Before U.S. communities routinely began treating drinking water with chlorine, thousands of residents died annually from cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery and hepatitis A. Drinking water chlorination and filtration have helped to virtually eliminate these diseases in the United States. The filtration of drinking water plus the use of chlorine is probably the most significant public health advancement in human history.

Fluoride is one of the most plentiful elements on Earth, occurring naturally in both ground water and surface waters in Michigan. All ground water sources contain some fluoride. Community water fluoridation is the process of adjusting the amount of fluoride found in water to achieve optimal prevention of tooth decay. When optimal levels of fluoride are present in drinking water, it has been shown to promote oral health by preventing tooth decay. Water systems are considered naturally fluoridated when the natural level of fluoride is greater than 0.7 milligrams per liter (mg/L). Fluoride in MSU’s groundwater is .3-.4 mg/L prior to fluoride addition. Fluoride is added to achieve the optimal range recommended by EPA and MDEQ.

Phosphate and sodium hydroxide are additives used to promote protection of the infrastructure and building plumbing. They are added in relatively small amounts to help provide a protective layer on pipe interiors, reducing corrosion. This prolongs the life of the pipes and reduces the amount of mineral and iron deposits in the water. These additives are monitored and approved by the EPA.

MSU performs multiple water quality tests throughout the year to ensure water quality. These are all promulgated and required by EPA and MDEQ. Additional testing is also performed extra to these requirements to further ensure health and safety. An example is performing 41 bacteriological distribution samples per month versus the required 15.

In addition to the water treatment listed above, MSU flushes the distribution system at least twice a year. This helps remove naturally occurring iron sediment that is associated with the ground water that settles in the main lines, lessening the duration and impact associated with the occasional appearance of “red water” on campus. Conditions that cause red water include increased water flow through mains or changes in water flow direction, resulting in stirred up sediment in the water distribution system. Although the red water is safe and does not pose a health risk, it can stain or impact research activities. The flushing process minimizes red water occurrences to the community as much as possible.