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Washington, D.C., residents have filed suit against city authorities for failing to inform them about excessive levels of poisonous lead in tap water for the past two years.
The law firm representing the angry residents two couples with infants whose tap water was found to contain as much as 30 times the acceptable level of lead in recent tests said it also planned to file suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies.
Charles Patrizia, one of the lawyers at Washington law firm Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker working on the case, said the suits sought more than anything else to force authorities to supply alternate clean drinking water and clean up the lead.
If ingested in significant levels whether through water, paint dust or other means lead can cause permanent brain damage to infants and young children. It also can be toxic to adults.
The lawsuit alleges the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA), which buys treated water for delivery to the capital, first discovered unacceptable levels of lead in 2001 but covered up the findings and failed to alert the public after tests in subsequent years confirmed the findings.
WASA board chairman Glenn Gerstell told a congressional hearing last week the authority alerted the city Health Department and affected customers directly in 2002 and had since made numerous public announcements.
A spokesman for Washington Mayor Anthony Williams said no residents had been diagnosed with any lead-related health problems as of yet.
The spokesman also called attention to the city's efforts to distribute water filters to residents even before EPA's order last Friday to do so within 30 days.