Portrait of Evelyn Lane ’23

During the summer of 2021, Evelyn Lane ’23 worked with a Middlebury professor on a research project examining lead levels in water at schools across Vermont. In conjunction with a 2019 Vermont law focused on lead, her work has resulted in safer water supplies throughout the state.

A junior environmental chemistry major, Evelyn Lane ’23 worked with Professor Molly Costanza-Robinson to analyze the impact of Vermont’s school lead laws. The following is Evelyn’s reflection on the experience.

Evelyn: My research partner and I worked on determining the impact of the 2019 Vermont law that concerns lead testing and remediation in schools. Through discussions with the Vermont Department of Health and Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, we organized and analyzed a database that is essential to determining how Vermont’s lead laws have affected children’s blood lead levels. You can read the bill here.

Alongside this, we tested the lead levels in all the faucets and taps in Sunderland and Coffrin Hall. While testing isn’t mandated for colleges under this bill, our environmental chemistry class had found elevated levels of lead in these buildings, which is why we decided to test them in the summer. Around 40 percent of the taps we tested in these two buildings required attention. We reported our findings to facilities, which then removed and replaced all the fixtures.

One of my goals is to help people in my community, and I feel that working on this research project has helped me accomplish this goal.

Testing Middlebury’s buildings has shown the local impact of this law and contributed to the safety of Middlebury’s staff, faculty, and my fellow students.

Going into this summer, I had no knowledge of data programming or lead-testing procedures. Now I am confident in my ability as a data analyzer and environmental researcher. This experience sets me apart from others in my field and forms a strong foundation of skills that heighten my capabilities. I am excited to continue using and building upon the skills I have acquired as I continue at Middlebury and beyond.

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