NIU staff member on leave over campus water testing

Published: Friday, July 25, 2014 11:04 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 11:33 p.m. CDT

DeKALB – A Northern Illinois University employee in charge of testing campus water has been placed on paid administrative leave after officials determined he didn’t test for certain contaminants for about two years.

University officials recently learned the campus violated several Illinois Environmental Protection Agency drinking water compliance standards over the past year, according to a NIU news release.

Officials later determined that the required testing for two disinfection byproducts didn’t take place from October 2011 through September 2013.

“The main thing is that this was a compliance issue, not a public health issue,” NIU Spokesman Paul Palian said. “There were no hazardous water conditions identified in the city of DeKalb water during that time, and the person in charge during that time has been put on administrative leave while an investigation into what happened ensues.”

NIU has since hired a new sample collector to oversee water testing.

The byproducts, haloacetic acids and trihalomethanes, form when naturally-occurring organic and inorganic materials in water react with chlorine, which is used to protect drinking water from disease-causing organisms, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

Drawing its water from the city of DeKalb, the university also provides treatment and filtration for the water supplied to campus. As a water authority, officials are required to monitor drinking water for specific contaminants on a regular basis to ensure it meets health standards.

Because the water was not tested for the two byproducts for two years, the quality of drinking water during that time can’t be verified, Palian said. Other tests required over that same time period did take place, and water from the city of DeKalb was in compliance.

“Our duty is to notify people that this occurred, and we are working with the IEPA to assure full compliance,” Palian said. “Since resuming testing the water quality has been fine. We’ve worked to strengthen that department.”

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