D.C. Mayor Discusses Initial Lead Testing Results

March 10, 2004

Washington, D.C., Mayor Anthony A. Williams said today there is nothing to indicate any reason for heightened concern about the city's water. He based his opinion on results just received on 1,001 of the residents who recently had their blood tested for lead contamination.

"We're not seeing significant numbers of individuals with elevated lead levels in the blood," said Williams. Of the total 1,267 people tested, only 47 were pregnant or nursing women, and none showed evidence of heightened lead levels.

Tests also were run on 327 children under age 6 – another group considered most at risk of developing to lead poisoning. According to statistics compiled by the District of Columbia Department of Health, only eight had lead levels in their blood surpassing 10 micrograms per deciliter. Four of those live in homes connected to D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) lead service lines.

Among those children and the pregnant and nursing women, only 27 percent live in homes with lead service pipes.

"We're awaiting additional results from WASA for additional water tests for lead at D.C. schools, and test data from homes and businesses that do not have lead service lines," said Williams.

Officials want to compare data collected from homes that face the potential of lead contamination with information on homes not considered at risk of contamination. WASA estimates that as many as 23,000 of the agency's 130,000 customers are served by the leaded lines.

Williams also said federal agencies involved in the treatment, distribution and monitoring of the city's water supply must be held accountable.

"We're going to seek federal funding and in kind assistance to protect the taxpayers of the district and rate payers of WASA from shouldering the financial burden," Williams said.

Although the exact cause of the increased lead levels has not been determined, city officials believe it is linked to a decision made by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials to switch from chlorine to chloramine compounds in the disinfection process used at the Washington Aqueduct.

The facility supplies drinking water to the district, and the Virginia communities of Arlington County and the City of Falls Church. The formulation change was made in November 2001 to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Source: The Associated Press

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