College routinely monitors lead levels in campus dorms

Before Reunion last spring, alumni with children under 6 years of age who stayed in certain campus dorms, including Frosh Quad and West College, were asked to sign the Massachusetts Vacation Rental Notification form indicating that lead paint could be present in the buildings.

According to the Massachusetts “Short Term Vacation or Recreational Rental Exemption,” the property owner, in this case the College, is “not required to abate or contain any paint, plaster or other accessible structural material containing dangerous levels of lead” provided that the building owner ensures that there is no “cracked or otherwise deteriorated plaster or putty or peeling, chipping or flaking paint.” If the property owner meets this requirement and a series of similar ones outlined in the ordinance, then they can rent their property to renters with a child under 6 years old, provided that the child is there for less than 31 days and the renters sign a waiver.

According to Frank Pekarski, manager of safety and environmental compliance, the College goes through extensive checks to make sure its buildings are in compliance with this regulation in advance of Reunion, so that the College can appropriately apply the exemption and ensure that all campus buildings are safe for young children.

To start, according to Pekarski, the Office of Alumni Relations and Development outlines a list of all dorm rooms that must be checked for any chipping, flaking or peeling paint. Afterward, the College conducts inspections to determine whether or not these listed buildings are in good condition. If not, they are sufficiently repaired and then re-inspected to ensure compliance.

“This process ensures that there are no hazardous conditions related to lead in the building when overnight visitors with very young children are present,” Pekarski said.

The College then provides the relevant information and forms to the alumni office, which then sends the lead waiver to any parents of children under 6 years old who will be staying in campus dorms with lead paint.

Using 3M LeadCheck swabs, Record staff checked for lead in several locations on campus during the past month, including Frosh Quad entries and West College. The majority of the tests returned negative, but the tests were positive in the Williams C basement stairway where there were several areas with chipped paint. The test also returned positive for the doorway in the West College basement.

Pekarski emphasized that the College is continually aware of campus buildings with lead paint, and regularly checks for anything potentially dangerous. “There are buildings on campus with lead paint and [the lead levels] are managed appropriately,” Pekarski said. “This is something that we monitor as part of our routine.”