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Michigan State UniversityMichigan State UniversityInfrastructure Planning and Facilities

Health and Safety Information

Pure water often has been called a universal solvent because it will dissolve almost anything. As water travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals and, in some cases, radioactive material. It can also pick up substances resulting from the presence of animals or from human activity. Some of these substances have been deemed by the EPA to be contaminants that must be monitored and strictly controlled.

Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk. Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) and Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLGs) are standards and criteria established using science and evidence-based approaches to keep the concentrations low at established safety levels based on toxicology studies, laboratory and engineering studies and monitoring. More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Immuno-compromised persons such as persons with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, persons who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, the elderly and infants can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. The EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on appropriate means to lessen the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants are available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline. More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

The MSU campus drinking water is safe and meets all federal and state safety standards. However, the water may have a different taste and feel compared to the water you are used to if you come from a location with a different water supply. For example, you may experience dry skin, or notice that the water feels “hard,” which is due to naturally occurring minerals in the water. Individuals usually acclimate to changes in a water supply fairly quick; however, if you have concerns, you should contact your health care provider for further guidance.

Protecting yourself from lead in drinking water

Considering that many of our customers travel to other locations in the world, below are general safety recommendations provided by the EPA and MDEQ that can be implemented to reduce the risk of contracting lead through any water system.

If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and building plumbing. When your water has been sitting for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 seconds to two minutes before using water for drinking or cooking. Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 or online.

Protecting our shared water resources

While groundwater is the sole source of drinking water in the Mid-Michigan area, it is important to realize that it is connected to our surface water supplies as well.

MSU is fortunate to have the Red Cedar River run through campus. Our wastewater travels through sanitary pipes to the East Lansing Water Resources Recovery Facility, where the water is treated and ultimately discharged to the Red Cedar River. Our storm water (the water from rain or snow melt) is not treated; rather, it travels to the river via an intricate network of catch basins and storm drains. As an MSU student, faculty or staff member, or a visitor to campus, you can play an essential role in protecting our shared water resources.

Wastewater treatment facilities have to deal with an increasing amount of prescription drugs in the water supply. Unfortunately, facilities aren’t equipped to “filter out” these chemicals and therefore, they make it into our water ways and eventually back into our water supplies.

Do not flush unused medications. Instead, take them to participating pharmacies and law enforcement offices in the area. To find a prescription disposal location near you, visit Capital Area Take Back Meds.

Please use caution with what you flush down the toilet. You can help protect the sanitary sewer system and ease the burden of wastewater treatment by disposing of the following items in the trash:

  • “Flushable wipes” – Marketed as flushable, however these don’t break down like toilet paper.
  • Condoms – These do not break down and can balloon, creating clogs.
  • Fats, oils and grease – Don’t put grease down garbage disposals. Pour into a container such as an empty jar or coffee can. Once cooled and solidified, secure the lid and place it in the trash.
  • Diapers and feminine supplies – Padding and adsorbent nature makes these too thick for plumbing.
  • Cotton swabs – Cardboard cotton swabs can be composted, and plastic swabs go into the trash.
  • Dental floss – Not biodegradable, can create clogs.
  • Cigarette butts – Contain chemicals that can contaminate water.
  • Hair – Put hair in a compost bin or in the trash.

Tap water versus bottled water

At MSU, plastic water bottles account for a large percentage of campus waste. It is estimated that only 25 percent of the nearly three million water bottles on campus make their way to MSU’s Recycling Center each year. The waste from plastic water bottles increases the university’s landfill costs and contributes to our environmental footprint. For this reason, MSU encourages campus to hydrate sustainably with a reusable water bottle at one of the university’s many water refill stations. Additionally, MSU installed drinking water and water bottle refill stations that include additional filters across campus as a sustainable, aesthetic response to the campus community’s issue with MSU’s drinking water (i.e. the appearance of “red water”). These stations offer access to high quality drinking water that is both economical and environmentally responsible.

For more information about your water, the contents of this report, or the 2003 source water assessment, contact the MSU water operations manager at 517-355-3314 or e-mail water@ipf.msu.edu.