BC Removed a Lead Pipe From Beneath Greycliff Hall Earlier This Month. City Officials Say the University Was Informed About It Over a Decade Ago.

On March 6, Boston College removed a lead pipe serving Greycliff Hall from under the sidewalk on Commonwealth Avenue.

The pipe was one of many lead pipes in and around Brighton Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC), but it was the only one on the BC campus.

“BC Facilities regrets that due to an oversight, a six-foot underground section of lead pipe at 2051 Commonwealth Avenue was not removed as planned in the summer of 2019,” university spokesman Jack Dunn wrote in a statement The heights.

But according to the Boston City Council, BC was notified of the pipe nearly 15 years ago.

In one current article Irene McSweeney, director of operations for the BWSC, told the Boston Globe that the commission contacted BC to remove the pipe in 2009, 2016, 2017 and 2021.

According to Dunn, these claims are unfounded.

“BC Facilities found no evidence of receipt of BWSC communications and was informed by BWSC staff that they were unable to verify the addresses for their reported correspondence with BC,” Dunn said in his statement.

However, BSWC continues to insist that the university has been made aware of the lead pipe on multiple occasions since 2009.

“In addition to a meeting between BWSC and BC officials in 2018 for discussion According to BWSC records, notice letters were sent about the property in question regularly,” BWSC wrote in a statement The heights.

When Tia Guay, a Greycliff resident and MCAS '26, was first informed about the lead pipe via email in February, she became increasingly concerned about her regular use of the kitchen and water supply.

“I was a little worried about it because we use the kitchen a lot — my roommate and I both,” Guay said.

The Dangers of a Whistle

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lead exposure can cause cardiovascular disease, reproductive disease, kidney disease and high blood pressure. Lead can also accumulate over time and be stored in the bones along with calcium.

Dunn said BC hired a firm in February to conduct an independent water test at Greycliff Hall, which concluded lead levels in the building's water were below the EPA's limit.

“The test showed a lead level of 0.0008 milligrams per liter, which is equivalent to 0.8 parts per billion (ppb) – well below the EPA limit of 15 ppb,” Dunn said in the statement.

BC also conducted a test in 2016 that found lead levels in the building's water were 3 ppb — also below the EPA standard.

“These tests demonstrate that the water at 2051 Commonwealth Avenue is safe according to standards established by the EPA and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Dunn said in the statement.

Despite this standard, the World Health Organization conditions that the ideal lead content in drinking water should be zero, as even low levels can cause harmful side effects.

The EPA it is also said that the level of lead at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur is zero.

But according to Philip Landrigan, director of the Global Public Health and Community Welfare Program, the risk of health consequences from lead exposure is low due to the age demographics of residents living in Greycliff.

“I would rate this risk as minimal at best,” Landrigan wrote in a statement The heights. “An important fact is that all of the building's occupants are young adult college students…This is very important because infants and young children are the age groups at greatest risk for lead exposure.”

Although the risk is low, Landrigan said he was relieved that BC removed the lead pipe.

“I am reassured that BC has now removed the lead pipe at 2051 Commonwealth Avenue,” Landrigan said in his statement. “Even though the health risk was extremely low, it was the right decision.”

Greycliff residents respond

Matthew Sher, MCAS '24 and Greycliff resident, was first notified of the lead pipe after finding a pink warning sign outside the building informing students that the pipe was being replaced.

Sher was surprised that BC still had a lead pipe and said this note worried him.

“We received an email about the replacement just before spring break,” Sher said in a statement to The heights. “When I first got the email and got bottled water, I was definitely concerned about water use because I didn't expect there would still be lead pipes in a dorm.”

Guay also questioned BC's inaction to replace the pipe sooner given the university's resources.

“I was confused why BC has a lot of money but the pipes haven’t been repaired,” Guay said.

Despite their knowledge of the lead pipe, BC did not inform students of its presence until late February, when they emailed residents.

“They just sent us an email warning but said it was nothing to worry about,” Guay said.

In addition to the warning, BC contacted students and developed a detailed action plan.

“They just sent an email with the plan and the schedule, when the water would be turned off and so on,” said resident Kathleen Beauvais, MCAS '25. “The communication was pretty quick, but to the point.”

Leanna Knight, MCAS '25lived in Greycliff Hall last year and I recently learned about the lead pipe, which she said was troubling her.

“It definitely felt kind of unsettling knowing they were there,” Knight said. “Nobody ever told us about it.”

Although BC's notices stated that lead levels were low and safe, Beauvais was still happy to replace the pipe.

“I’m definitely glad they fixed the problem,” Beauvais said. “I mean, I know [BC] said the water levels are safe and this is not a real problem, but it is always a good thing to preemptively remove any pipes that could cause a problem.”

David Abel, Professor of Practice in the Journalism Department at Boston University and author of the current article Boston Globe Article said in a statement The heights that he could not find any other existing lead pipes at other universities.

“We also looked at the map of known lead pipes that the Boston Water and Sewer Commission has on their website, a link to which can be found in the story, and we were unable to find any other existing lead pipes at other universities in the city,” including BU,” Abel wrote.

Knight said the lack of communication between BC and Greycliff residents has left students unaware of the dangers of lead pipes.

“We were never really told anything about it [the pipes]Therefore, it is difficult to assess the dangers,” she said.

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