Suit Says Lead Has Depreciated D.C. Homes

April 7, 2004

A class action lawsuit was filed Monday in D.C. Superior Court on behalf of two Washington, D.C. residents. The suit alleges that because thousands of District homes with lead service lines have suffered a loss of value, the judge should throw out all of the city's recent residential property tax assessments.

Filed by Joseph A. Hennessey on behalf of two District property owners, the suit contends that the District's Office of Tax and Revenue did not take into consideration the negative effect the lead service lines will have on homeowners attempting to sell.

The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority estimates that 23,000 homes have lead lines. More than 5,000 of them have water with lead levels that exceed the federal limit.

Hennessey wants all assessments sent in March to be declared void because WASA officials have admitted that they do not know exactly where all of the lead lines are located. The two property owners who have joined the lawsuit are among the residents who are not sure whether their properties have a lead service line.

City government and WASA leaders have attempted to manage the lead contamination by distributing free water filters to residents who have lead service lines.

WASA contractors will replace 1,600 lead service lines this year. In addition, scientists plan to add chemicals to the water at the Washington Aqueduct on June 1 in an attempt to address the problem.

Several other residents who believe their property values have been hurt by the lead problem appealed to the tax office last week.

Another class action lawsuit was filed last month on behalf of District residents, alleging that the city and WASA did not properly protect public health because they failed to fully disclose the lead problem. That suit also is pending.

Source: The Washington Post

Image courtesy Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ).
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