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The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Cryptosporidium Contamination: Where Things Stand

Liam Holden

On Sept. 28, the Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) announced they had detected low levels of the disease-inducing, microscopic parasite Cryptosporidium in the city’s Druid Lake Reservoir, which supplies a large swath of the local area’s water. So far, it appears to have had little effect on Loyola’s campus

“Student Health Services has seen no students presenting symptoms related to this situation,” Assistant Director of Communications Marcus Dean said Oct. 4 on behalf of SHS director Julie Sanz, MSN, ANP-BC, further encouraging “those who are immunocompromised to continue to drink boiled, filtered, and bottled water.”

This is in line with the present recommendations from the city. Though Loyola’s Emergency Management Team noted Wednesday morning that, according to the DPW, “the latest test samples found no traces of Cryptosporidium oocysts in the Druid Lake Reservoir,” the water advisory remains in effect “at this time out of an abundance of caution.”

The advisory, developed by the DPW in consultation with the Baltimore City Health Department said that, “those with immunocompromising conditions and other sensitive populations” should “drink bottled water, boil water for one minute before consuming, [and] filter tap water using a filter labeled to ANSI/NSF 53 or 58 standards, or a filter designed to remove objects 1 micron or larger… (i.e., not Brita-type filters).”

For the immunocompromised or otherwise concerned in the Loyola community, NSF 53 is the key standard. Just a few hours after the advisory took effect, the school’s Emergency Information page confirmed that “the water bottle filling stations around campus meet National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) 53 certification and are approved for the removal of Cryptosporidium.” Per the NSF itself, NSF 53 is a standard for filters that “are certified to reduce a contaminant with a health effect.”

The Emergency Management Team shared that the filters in the water bottle filling stations include the Elkay WaterSentry Filter Model 51300C, the Aquaspace Model AWS-R-2421, and the Brita / Haws Model 6429, all of which they said “are tested and certified to NSF/ANSI 53 for cyst removal.” Note that the Brita filter in question here is not the type the DPW warned against, which appeared to be referencing the personal pitchers for which Brita is popularly known.

Students looking for these filtered stations can find a list of some of the ones around campus here. Halsey Taylor-brand stations, at least, are safe to drink from if their filter status lights are green or yellow. Red lights, signifying defunct filters that must be replaced, can be reported to the Facilities department at this link.

Also attentive to the situation is Loyola’s Parkhurst Dining, who said that they are “closely monitoring the tap water advisory” and that “Parkhurst managers and supervisors are fully available to advise any immunocompromised students and help them take the necessary precautions.” 

“While Parkhurst does use tap water in some areas of the dining halls, including the salad bars and beverage machines, all bottled beverages and food that is fully cooked are currently considered safe to eat,” they confirmed. 

Students with further questions and concerns, they said, can reach out to Parkhurst Dining directly at [email protected].

The advisory has from the beginning applied to a narrow group of impacted area residents, the immunocompromised, who the CDC says, “are more likely to have severe and potentially-life threatening symptoms.” 

Otherwise, the test cited in the advisory found such low levels of Cryptosporidium that the DPW was confident asserting that, “our drinking water remains safe for the general population.” 

The press release stressed that Cryptosporidium levels “indicate a low risk for the general population” and that “for most people, the water is still safe to drink.”

This is, regardless, a notable incident for the city, the consequence of Baltimore’s response to EPA orders that they cover their reservoirs. One local news station reported that as recently as May, the EPA was warning that “an uncovered reservoir,” like Druid Lake, “used to store treated drinking water is susceptible to contamination from animals, such as birds or insects.” The DPW, for their part, highlighted in their October 3rd press release that they are “working to complete work on the two remaining uncovered finished water reservoirs at Druid Lake and Ashburton by the end of the year.”

Until then, the DPW has committed to conducting weekly sampling for both the Cryptosporidium and Giardia parasites and sharing the subsequent results with the public.

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