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Lead in drinking water, including Washington, D.C.

Legislation

H.R. 2076. A bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure that the District of Columbia and States are provided a safe, lead-free supply of drinking water. Introduced April 30, 2007 by Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC and Henry A. Waxman, D-Los Angeles. Referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Full text of this legislation.

 

News

 


More kids in Washington, D.C. had elevated lead than previously reported

More than twice as many D.C. children as previously reported by federal and local health officials had high levels of lead in their blood amid the city's drinking water crisis, according to congressional investigators, throwing into doubt assurances by those officials that the lead in tap water did not seriously harm city children. The new information was uncovered by a House subcommittee investigating the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's performance and has raised congressional concern about whether the agency properly alerted District residents to a health risk from unprecedented levels of lead in the water. Washington Post_ 8/4/09

Los Angeles school districts turns off 2,000 water faucets and fountains because of high lead levels

Following a four-month testing program, Los Angeles Unified has turned off 2,000 water faucets and fountains at 660 schools because of high levels of lead, officials said Thursday. The affected fountains and faucets amount to about 3 percent of the 66,000 outlets tested since November but were located in nearly three-quarters of the district's schools. And while the water systems at 11 schools still have to be tested, district officials said they are confident that lead contamination is no longer a problem. Acceptable lead levels found at just 42 schools, officials said. Los Angeles Daily News_ 3/13/09

Lead levels plummet in young children

In a stunning improvement in children's health, far fewer kids have high lead levels than 20 years ago, government research shows -- a testament to aggressive efforts to get lead out of paint, water and soil, according to a study in the March edition of the journal Pediatrics. Federal researchers found that just 1.4% of young children had elevated lead levels in their blood in 2004, the latest data available. That compares with almost 9% in 1988. The 84% drop extends a trend that began in the 1970s when efforts began to remove lead from gasoline. The researchers credited continuing steps to reduce children's exposure to lead in old house paint, soil, water and other sources. Lead can interfere with developing nervous systems and cause permanent problems with learning, memory and behavior.

AP/Los Angeles Times_ 3/2/09

Washington, D. C. Water and Sewer Authority sued for $200 million over lead in water

A Capitol Hill father of 8-year-old twin boys sued the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority yesterday for $200 million, claiming the children's ongoing health problems can be tied to high concentrations of lead in drinking water. John Parkhurst filed suit in D.C. Superior Court in a case that he hopes will become a class-action on behalf of others affected by elevated lead levels in the city's water from 2001 to 2004. Recent news reports raised questions about a 2007 research paper that assured D.C. residents that there was no harm caused by the earlier elevated amounts of lead in the water. The lawsuit accuses WASA officials of keeping the extent of the lead problems from the public. Washington Post_ 2/18/09

DC Water Assessment Is Murky
Lead coverup alleged

The general manager of the Washington D.C. Water and Sewer Authority told council members yesterday that he would allow a child to drink the city's tap water despite a recent independent study that linked the District's lead crisis of several years ago to potentially damaging blood-lead levels in hundreds of children.  But when asked if he would give that advice to the general public, Jerry Johnson said, "I don't know."  The issue has been controversial since a change in water treatment caused hazardous concentrations of lead to seep into the drinking water, starting in 2001. The Washington Post publicized the problem in 2004, spurring water treatment that now minimizes the corrosion of lead service lines.  Two weeks ago, The Post published findings of a report from Virginia Tech and Children's National Medical Center linking the crisis to potential harm to fetuses and children younger than 2 during the water crisis.  Scientists say the study suggests that hundreds or as many as tens of thousands of those youngsters could be at a risk of losing two to three IQ points or suffering health problems. Besides the amount of lead ingested, however, the ultimate result on a child depends on genetics, home environment and experience in school, experts said.  Irate parents and environmental activists said that WASA cannot be trusted and that the city's water probably remains unsafe to drink. "Their years-long coverup has started to unravel," said Ralph Scott, community projects director for the Alliance for Healthy Homes.  Washington Post_2/11/09

D.C. water cleanup experiement caused lead poisoning

Lead concentrations spiked in many children living in the nation's capital after the local water authority altered the treatment used to disinfect drinking water.  About seven-and-a-half years ago, the District of Columbia’s water authority switched from chlorination to an alternative water-disinfection technology: chloramination.  The goal had been to reduce the potentially carcinogenic by-products of chlorination that developed in drinking water. And the substitution worked.  However, an unintended consequence of this improved disinfection technique was the sudden release of copious amounts of lead into the drinking water that serves the nation’s capital. Until then, notes Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech, no one had realized that chlorine had been playing a role in binding substantial amounts of lead to the interior of plumbing pipes.  What resulted was a “lead crisis” that persisted for several years, until water engineers found a way to tame the chloramination process. However, despite local health officials’ claims to the contrary, District children were dosed with potentially dangerous amounts of lead, report Edwards and two colleagues from Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Click here for the full report Science News_ 1/17/09

Lead exposure in children linked to violent crime

The first study to follow lead-exposed children from before birth into adulthood has shown that even relatively low levels of lead permanently damage the brain and are linked to higher numbers of arrests, particularly for violent crime. Previous studies linking lead to such problems have used indirect measures of both lead and criminality, and critics have argued that socioeconomic and other factors may be responsible for the observed effects. But by measuring blood levels of lead before birth and during the first seven years of life, then correlating the levels with arrest records and brain size, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine researchers have produced the strongest evidence yet that lead plays a major role in crime. Researchers have long known that lead exposure reduces IQ by damaging brain cells in children during their early years. It is also known that lead increases children's distractability, impulsiveness and restlessness and leaves them with a shortened attention span -- all factors considered precursors of aggressive or violent behavior. Los Angeles Times_ 5/27/08 (logon required)

Doubts on Washington, D.C. lead pipe replacement

The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority is considering scaling back its plan to replace underground lead water pipes, saying that a chemical added to the distribution system in recent years has significantly reduced lead contamination citywide. Under a $408 million program, WASA has been working since 2004 to replace lead pipes that run from non-lead water mains to about 35,000 homes. The agency has been replacing the sections of pipe under public land, stretching from the mains to private property lines, and offering financial help to residents for replacement of the sections that run beneath their property. Although WASA has replaced 14,100 pipes, only 1,900 homeowners "have elected to replace the portion of the lead service pipe on their side of the property line," the agency said yesterday. Because such partial replacements result in only slight decreases in lead levels, the agency said, homeowners' limited participation in the program has raised doubts about the plan's cost-effectiveness. In addition, WASA's water quality manager said, the introduction of the chemical orthophosphate to the water supply several years ago has reduced the amount of lead to levels deemed acceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency. Washington Post_ 1/26/08

EPA moves to make U.S. drinking water safer from lead

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued new national water regulations yesterday that it said will help reduce lead in drinking water, keep utilities honest in testing for lead and warn the public when water poses a health risk. The revised drinking water rules require that water utilities notify customers as soon as they find high lead levels in water. The rules also strengthen and clarify how utilities should test for lead, to reduce the chances of utilities reporting artificially rosy test results that mask lead problems. The rules also require that utilities get permission from regulators before changing water treatment. Many of the revisions to the regulations on lead were prompted or informed by a lead crisis in the District's water supply that was first revealed early in 2004, more than two years after the utility noticed lead levels rising. The public learned in news reports in January 2004 that its drinking water contained dangerously high, record-setting levels of lead. It was a fact the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority and EPA knew from extensive testing of hundreds of District homes in the previous year, but had not announced to the public. Washington Post_ 9/27/07

Tests find lead levels above Australian standards in water supplies of 42 New South Wales schools

The New South Wales Government says bottled water is being distributed to 42 of the state's schools because of elevated lead levels in their water supplies. The Education Minister, John Della Bosca, says the problem is confined to schools on Sydney's outskirts and in regional areas that depend on tank water but have failed to meet rainwater tank safety guidelines. Mr Della Bosca says the Government is spending $3.5 million installing filtration systems to eliminate the problem. "The levels of lead found in the tanks do not pose an immediate health risk to students," he said. abc.net.au_ 9/17/07

Water pitcher filters fail lead tests
Water filters in drinking pitchers don't reduce lead to safe levels, prompting the Middlesex-London Health Unit to issue an alert yesterday.  The filters had been recommended to Londoners as a method of reducing dangerous lead levels, but they failed in recent tests in a review reported Monday by Michigan-based NSF International.  "We wanted to let people know about that so if they bought one of these units they can look for one of these other units," said Jim Reffle, director of environmental health for the health unit, referring to other systems for reducing lead levels, including filters attached directly to a water tap and systems installed in the plumbing system.  Those systems still appear to be effective, said Reffle,.  This year, after 1,400 homes were tested, it was reported one in four London homes failed provincial safety standards for lead content in water.  London Free Press_7/18/07

Wisconsin community reports lead in water

The Racine (Wis.) Water Utility sent out brochures today notifying residents that the area’s water supply failed three tests for lead in the water since 2004, including the two required tests in 2006.  The brochure states that the amount of lead in the area’s water is decreasing, but remains above the acceptable levels enforced by the Department of Natural Resources. The brochure states, in part: “This notice is to inform the water customers that some homes in this community have elevated lead levels in their drinking water. Lead can pose a significant risk to our health.”   The Racine Report_3/1/07

United Water exceeds federal arsenic levels in Rockland, New York

Residents question late notification

United Water New York has sent letters to its Rockland customers telling them its drinking water had exceeded federal arsenic standards.  But the Rockland County Health Department said yesterday that customer health was not affected because there had been no long-term exposure or excessive ingestion.  Several customers disputed that view and said long-term exposure could have occurred, and the company and the county should do more to make sure there were no health concerns.  The company tested two wells three times last year. The last test was Aug. 24.  But the results were not given to customers until United Water mailed a letter dated Feb. 9. Those letters apparently started arriving at Rockland homes yesterday and Tuesday.  A United Water spokesman said the arsenic levels did not warrant immediate notification.  The Journal News_2/15/07

Durham NC's drinking water fails to meet federal standards
Durham's city manager says the city was not trying to hide test results that showed high lead levels in the drinking water. Rather, Patrick Baker says, city employees did not think the results needed to be included in a report to the state.  "I can't tell you that I'm pleased to stand in front of you today with this misunderstanding between the city and the state,” Baker told reporters at a news conference Tuesday, “but we simply did not report those results because we didn't feel they were required of us."  He says, at first, the city only sent the state test results taken during September as part of Durham's routine lead compliance testing. Those results met safe drinking water standards. But the state wanted results from tests taken prior to September as well. Once the two sets of results were added together, Durham's water no longer met EPA standards.  "I believe that our failure to disclose that was a lack of knowledge of the rules and not an intent to deceive the community into thinking there were no problems with their water when in fact there were," he explained.  Now because of problems, the city has to retest certain homes within six months, increase efforts to educate residents about lead, and replace any drinking water lines that contain lead. Water officials say that is a difficult task since the pipes are beneath the ground.  "I believe if you come back into compliance, it's no longer an issue,” said Mike Adcock who is with Durham’s Water Management Dept. “I believe we'll find that to be the case."  Officials plan to begin retesting homes in February. They are planning a community lead summit for March.  News14_1/30/07


Marathon, New York parents upset that school officials didn't tell them about lead test results from drinking fountains

Studies show since 2002, some of the Appleby Elementary School's water samples tested positive for lead. School and health officials say the levels aren't high enough to cause health problems. But, some samples had high enough levels that Appleby had to take action. All drinking fountains have been replaced with water coolers and taps are being flushed on a daily basis. After learning school officials have known about the problem for years, parents are upset they weren't told earlier. News10_ 12/20/06

Tap water lead levels high on Florida's Chokoloskee Island

Tests have revealed elevated lead levels in tap water at four locations on Chokoloskee Island, prompting the local water authority to urge its 1,300 customers to have their water checked. The source of the contamination is probably from lead solder found along copper pipes in homes built before 1986, said Scott Lewis, project manager for U.S. Water, the contractor in charge of Everglades City’s utility. The system’s service area includes Everglades City, Chokoloskee, Plantation Island and Copeland. Although the city’s pipes and groundwater have been ruled out, a federal law requires the city to look into how to reduce the threat of people coming into contact with lead. The lead warnings are the latest in a string of water troubles in the Everglades area. It marked the fifth time in 13 years that the system has failed a routine test for lead. If four of the 20 test locations register above 15 parts per billion, residents must be informed, said Eli Fleishauer, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Fort Myers office. Everglades City had to mail out similar notices this summer due to high amounts of two water-treatment byproducts, called trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids. After years of living with bad water, some Everglades residents are turning to bottled water, despite the inconveniences and cost. Naples News_ 12/8/06

November, 2006

North Carolina lead tests prompt caution to water users after switch in purification chemicals

Children whose blood was tested showed increased levels of lead after the Eastern North Carolina city of Goldsboro switched its water purification chemicals from chlorine to chloramines, Duke University researchers have found. The findings add to a growing mystery about whether lead is creeping undetected into drinking water, even though federal rules require water systems to routinely test for it. The study doesn't prove cause and effect between the higher lead levels and the purification chemicals. But it adds more heft to warnings that families with children in older homes should not presume their drinking water is safe and should take measures against lead exposure. The biggest change detected in Goldsboro was among children living in homes built before 1950. News Observer_ 11/20/06

Tests for lead in water at New Jersey's Chester Springs Mall seen as safeguard measure

Officials say there is probably no reason for concern over elevated lead levels found in some tests of water at the Chester Springs Mall but merchants said they are taking safeguards to protect their customers.  Residents had become concerned after receiving an unsigned e-mail about the water quality at the mall off Route 206.  Borough Clerk Valerie Egan said that in August, the well which serves the stores in the Chester Springs Mall was tested in five different business locations on the property.  Of the five sites that were tested, four were well under the federal, .015 parts per million (ppm) limit for lead content, while one was above it at .049 ppm, Egan said.  Egan said there may be a variety of reasons for the higher reading at the site and that if the well was contaminated, high levels of lead would have shown on all the readings.  Record Community Newspapers_11/16/06

Above-normal levels of lead found in Seattle schools' water

Routine tests have found higher-than-normal levels of lead in the water in at least 35 Seattle public schools, the school district announced Wednesday. More than 300 drinking fountains and sinks turned up lead levels above the district's standard in the September tests. The district tested fixtures at about 40 schools. School officials said they don't know how the lead got into the water. However, Ron English, the district's water program manager said the school levels may have been high because the water sat in the pipes too long before being tested. The samples were drawn last spring when the water had been off for four to seven weeks following arsenic tests. The district is re-testing water from new samples at four of the schools to examine that theory. The pipes in most of the schools tested are fewer than 10 years old, and neither they nor the fixtures or solders are made of lead. The schools had tested within the allowable levels for lead in 2004. Seattle Times_ 11/9/06

October, 2006

Resident questions whether Braintree, Massachusetts is going far enough to replace lead water lines

Throughout the summer and into the fall, the Braintree water department has been digging up the streets and replacing water mains in the West Street area. According to Stephen Patterson, an 11-year resident of Weston Avenue, anyone whose house is supplied by a half-century-old clogged and encrusted four-inch water main has suffered the effects of low water pressure. More importantly, he told the Forum, these old water mains leave behind a big health problem: old lead water supply lines running from the main into most homes. Whose responsibility is it to replace them, what is the best way to do it and how can homeowners save money? TownOnline_ 10/25/06

Durham, North Carolina passes a federal lead test for its water

Durham has passed a federally mandated test looking for lead in its water supply, but city officials cautioned residents Monday to continue precautions when consuming water from household taps unused more than six hours. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency requires public water systems to survey selected residential taps every three years. Durham had last conducted the tests in 2004 but was asked to perform them again a year early after concerns were raised about the chemical process used to treat the city's water. Those concerns heightened in April, after a child was found to have lead poisoning. it. Further testing by the city and the county Health Department found lead in water from dozens of homes scattered across Durham. Drinking fountains at eight schools were disconnected during the summer after lead was found in unacceptable amounts. In July, the city ceased using a chemical, ferric chloride, in its water treatment amid concerns that it was helping lead leach from old plumbing fixtures and pipe solder. News Observer_ 10/24/06

South Blount County, Tennessee detects high lead levels in water at some homes

The South Blount Utility District first discovered the violation during routine testing in July. A second round of testing conducted on those eight homes confirmed the problem still existed. The district manager of the utility, Henry Durant, said the problem was not at their plant. Durant believes the lead is leeching from solder used on copper pipe plumbing in homes, before the lead was outlawed in 1986. Durant said that will help determine who may be affected. WBIR_ 10/06/06

California governor signs bill reducing amount of lead in plumbing fixtures and water lines

According to published reports, lead can enter drinking water through corroded plumbing fixtures and water distribution pipes. Additionally, lead can dissolve into water that stands for hours in plumbing fixtures with lead content, such as the first water that comes out of the faucet in the morning. The new California law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2010, reduces the allowable content in plumbing fixtures and pipes from a maximum 8 percent to a maximum 0.25 percent. The 8 percent lead content limit was created by Congress in 1986 and also included a ban on the use of solder containing more than 0.2 percent lead. The bill's supporters included water districts and environmental groups. Opposed to it were the California Building Industry Association and firms associated with the production or installation of plumbing. CBS5_ 10/1/06

September, 2006

Lead plumbing problem continues in Manchester, Maine housing complex

Residents at Lakehurst Acres are in for at least one more week of bottled water. A third test of the housing complex's lead-tainted plumbing system showed little improvement over the previous test, meaning the water is still unsafe to drink, said the man charged with finding a solution. Carlton Gardner, who runs the compliance and enforcement team for the state's Drinking Water Program, said Friday the amount of lead in the housing complex's system has only decreased by 70 parts-per-billion, from 280 last week to 210 this week. That was a far cry from the goal of 15 parts-per-billion that Gardner hoped to reach by this weekend. Gardner said his group is talking with a water quality agency in New Jersey, where they have had lead problems similar to the situation here at Lakehurst. Gardner said they recommended against using an ion-exchange unit, which is being employed in the Lakehurst water supply to eliminate naturally occurring arsenic in groundwater. The unit does not cause lead to be present in the water, he said, but rather inflames a lead problem that already is present. Kennebec Journal_ 9/30/06

Durham, North Carolina public school drinking water now safe from lead: School officials

The schools are the final three out of eight -- two high schools, two middle schools and four elementary schools -- that were shut down because of lead just before students returned to classes last week. Lead is especially dangerous to young children and can cause developmental difficulties and brain damage. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandates that lead in amounts greater than 15 parts per billion requires government action. One sample at Northern High School showed lead levels at 1,770 parts per billion -- 118 times the federal safety limit. A water sample from Carrington Middle School came back at 383 parts per billion. Tests at Mangum Elementary School showed a fountain at 109 parts per billion. The water supply in Durham has been under scrutiny since April, when a child suffered lead poisoning after drinking from a faucet in a South Durham apartment. Herald-Sun_ 9/1/06

August, 2006

Durham, North Carolina, high school students may get bottled water after tests find lead in drinking fountain

In addition to lead levels above those considered safe by federal guidelines at Morthern high School, lead also was detected in the water from kitchen taps at Burton Geo-World Magnet Elementary School and Merrick-Moore Elementary School, though at concentrations below the danger level. High levels also were confirmed at Y.E. Smith Elementary School, where previous testing found lead in 2004 and students have been drinking bottled water for more than two years. Durham Public Schools decided to test selected taps at 27 of the system's older facilities after previous rounds of testing by state and local health officials found elevated lead levels in water samples collected from private homes across the city. It is suspected a chemical until recently used to treat much of Durham's water might have contributed to an increase in the amounts of lead leaching from old plumbing fixtures. The city ceased using the chemical in question, ferric chloride, July 6. News Observer_ 8/19/06


Providence, Rhode Island water board launches lead education campaign

The Providence Water Supply Board said Thursday it wants to get the word out about the potentially harmful effects of lead exposure caused by old plumbing. NBC 10's Mario Hilario reported that the advisory from Providence Water affects thousands of customers in Providence, North Providence and Cranston. Providence Water said it found 16 out of 100 test homes had elevated lead levels in drinking water. Guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency state lead levels should not exceed 15 parts per billion. More than 10 percent of the samples exceeded that level, requiring Providence Water to launch the public education campaign. Health officials say exposure to lead over a long period of time can lead to serious health problems. Children and pregnant women are particularly at risk. Providence Water said the water it produces at its plant in Scituate is fine. The utility said the potential problem occurs when water comes into homes with lead pipes. Officials said lead from older plumbing can leach into the water when the water has been sitting for six to 10 hours. WJAR/MSNBC_ 8/17/06

Durham, North Carolina residents urged to run faucets to remove lead

Durham's water management director on Monday urged city residents to run their faucets at least three minutes before using tap water for drinking or cooking due to an increased risk of lead contamination. In recent city testing of the homes considered most at risk, those built between the early and mid-1980s, 44 percent had lead in the water above the federal safety limit of 15 parts per billion, according to a new city report. Lead was banned from use in the solder used to join copper pipes in 1985. Speaking at a City Council meeting Monday night, water director Terry Rolan stressed that the lead wasn't coming from the treatment plants or distribution system he oversees. However, Rolan did acknowledge that the city's use of a chemical, ferric chloride, in its treatment process may have made the water supply more corrosive -- leading to the increased leaching of lead from old solder and plumbing fixtures. In most cases, running the tap when it has gone unused for six or more hours flushes out tainted water. Ferric chloride had been used since January 2003 at the Brown Water Treatment Plant, which provides about two-thirds of Durham's water. The city ceased using the chemical July 6. Rolan also is president of the American Water Works Association. News Observer_ 8/8/06

EPA to issue guidance for testing home tap water for lead and copper

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue guidance in the next month advising utilities not to ask homeowners who collect tap-water samples for Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) compliance purposes to remove faucet aerators prior to doing so. Recent research has indicated that removing aerators prior to sampling could produce samples that don't account for particulate lead that can be trapped in aerator screens after being stripped from lead solder under certain water chemistry conditions. AWWA_ 8/4/06

July, 2006

Lead might be widespread in Durham, North Carolina water

Lead contamination could be a citywide risk for Durham, despite city officials' past assurances that it was limited to an apartment complex where a child was poisoned, test results show. Of 89 water samples taken over the past month, 18 homes -- about one in five -- showed lead contamination above federal safety guidelines. Seven of the sites that tested above the limit are miles from Penrith Townhomes, where the city had said the contamination was contained. Eleven homes that tested above the limit are in or near the apartment complex. Lead is especially toxic to young children, and can cause brain damage and other developmental problems. State authorities have been pushing the Durham County Health Department to issue a citywide warning of the danger. The city instead has released statements urging residents to take precautions to reduce the risk. AP/News 14_ 7/21/06

Durham, North Carolina, switches water treatment chemicals to prevent lead contamination

The city water utility this week stopped using a chemical treatment that is suspected of causing lead to contaminate drinking water in an apartment complex and more than a dozen homes. The utility abandoned the use of ferric chloride at its Brown treatment plant and replaced it with aluminum sulfate. Durham was alerted to lead in water at some city homes in May after a child was diagnosed with lead poisoning. News-Observer_ 7/10/06

EPA to tighten rules on lead in drinking water

The Environmental Protection Agency proposal would:

· revise monitoring requirements to ensure that water samples show how effective lead controls are
· clarify the timing of sample collection and tighten criteria for reducing the frequency of monitoring
· require that utilities receive state approval of treatment changes so that states can provide direction or require additional monitoring
· require that water utilities notify occupants of the results of any testing that occurs within a home or facility. It also would ensure that consumers receive information about how to limit their exposure to lead in drinking water
· require systems to reevaluate lead service lines that may have previously been identified as low risk after any major treatment changes that could affect corrosion control

The proposal is an outgrowth of EPA's March 2005 drinking water lead-reduction plan. Press Release_ 7/6/06

June, 2006

North Carolina water improperly tested for lead

Hundreds of public water systems in North Carolina have been improperly tested for the presence of lead, in part because of poor instructions given out by the state years ago. The faulty testing means some of the systems could have undetected lead problems, but nearly three-fourths of the systems have ignored the state's warnings that they may have been testing the wrong houses. Terry L. Pierce, the director of the Division of Environmental Health, said in April that operators of the systems would have to retest within 30 days. So far, that hasn't happened. Questions about lead testing come as the state's Public Water Supply Section is overwhelmed by the testing requirements of the state's public water systems. AP/News-Record_ 6/13/06

EPA eases monitoring of Washington, D.C. drinking water

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has formally reduced its oversight of D.C. drinking water after new test results showed that the level of lead in the water has remained below federal limits for a full year. Last week, the EPA certified the results submitted by the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, EPA spokesman Roy Seneca said today. WASA had announced in January that city water had met federal standards, but the EPA had requested more data after finding irregularities in 16 test samples. The new samples met the requirements, Seneca said, and the lead level in city water is 15 parts per billion, just within the federal limit. The EPA had increased its monitoring of city water after the discovery of excessive lead in the water was made public more than two years ago. Agency officials said the high lead was due to leaching from lead service pipes. Washington Post_ 6/4/06

May, 2006

Lead found in water at Durham, North Carolina housing complex; child poisoned

Lead contamination that sickened a Durham child was confined to the housing complex where the child once lived, city officials said Friday. The case of lead poisoning, traced to a kitchen tap, represents just the second case in North Carolina of lead poisoning tied to public drinking water. Tests found elevated lead levels in tap water, probably from the plumbing pipes, in the child's former residence and at least four other units of the 332-unit townhouse and apartment complex near Research Triangle Park. Health officials have found no other source of likely lead contamination. AP/Charlotte Observer_ 5/19/06

March, 2006

Lead found in drinking water of Elmira, New York, schools

Elmira City School District officials announced higher-than-normal lead levels have been found in five schools and cautioned students and staff in two buildings not to drink water. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that action be taken to reduce lead in drinking water when levels reach 20 parts per billion or greater. School district officials are working to lower the lead levels that exceed 20-parts-per-billion, for instance, by taking some water fountains out of service and replacing plumbing fixtures and testing water again to make sure lead levels decrease. Lead is a toxic metal, and even low levels of it may impact a child's
health, from behavioral problems to learning disabilities, according to the district. Star-Gazette_ 3/23/06

February, 2006

US Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton to treat high lead in water

Camp Pendleton officials said yesterday it is on its way to resolving lead contamination of the base's southern drinking-water system.  The announcement comes about five months after military officials announced they had found elevated levels of lead in various water samples.  More than 1,400 lead tests have been conducted since September, the Marines said. They also said more than 630 blood-lead level tests were taken during the same period, with all being negative.  The tainted water, base officials said, was caused by copper plumbing or fixtures, which can contain trace amounts of lead – not by the well water or the main delivery pipes.  To ward off future problems, Camp Pendleton leaders plan to start a pipe and water treatment program to limit corrosion and keep down levels of metal in the southern system. That network serves more than 5,000 homes, youth centers and three public schools.  SignOnSanDiego.com_2/23/06

EPA helps schools and child care facilities reduce lead in drinking water

The "3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water at Schools and Child care Facilities Toolkit" contains materials to implement a voluntary Training, Testing, and Telling strategy. EPA developed the toolkit in conjunction with nongovernment organizations and several federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Education, whose Safe and Drug-Free School Coordinators will help promote and distribute the package to schools. Printed copies of the toolkit will be available through the Water Resource Center at 800-832-7828 and through the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at: 800-426-4791. To view the toolkit visit:
epa.gov/safewater/schools/guidance.html

Medical News Today_ 1/31/06

EPA questioned on lead in drinking water; Missing data; states failure to report cited

The government has incomplete data about lead in the country's drinking water, and that problem and others may be undermining public health, congressional investigators say.  A Government Accountability Office study released Thursday looked at implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's 1991 Lead and Copper Rule.  The rule requires water systems to test tap water at certain high-risk locations. If elevated levels are found, the water systems must notify customers and in some cases take action to lessen corrosion.  According to EPA data, the number of water systems exceeding the lead action level dropped by nearly 75 percent over about a decade beginning in the early 1990s. But GAO investigators found that recent test results from over 30 percent of water systems were missing from EPA data, apparently because states were not reporting them.  Also, the EPA requires states to report certain "milestones" to indicate whether water systems' lead levels are acceptable, but this information was missing for more than 70 percent of water systems, the report said.  "EPA has been slow to take action on these data problems and, as a result, lacks the information it needs to evaluate how effectively the lead rule is being implemented and enforced nationwide," said the report.  AP Wire_1/26/06

Lead may be in older pipes, but it's not in the Boston-area water supply, agencies assure public

Boston water providers and servers say that recent "scare tactics" from groups claiming there is lead in Boston's water are unfounded because the lead is actually in the pipes, not directly in the water source. But at a City Council hearing Thursday, some councilors expressed concern that lead in piping can still be a risk for low-income families. "There is no lead in the water. The lead is only in the home plumbing," said Ria Convery, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. "The simplest fix to get rid of the lead is to let the water run for 30 seconds to a minute," Convery said. "Once it's free flowing and fresh, the lead is gone." Boston University Daily Free Press_ 12/2/05

November, 2005

Whistle-blower on lead in drinking water vindicated, reinstated at Washington, D.C. Water and Sewer Authority

Seema S. Bhat, who had worked for WASA for four years, had "become an unwelcome whistle-blower" after informing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that lead in the city's drinking water had risen above federal limits, according to a 186-page ruling by Stuart A. Levin, an administrative law judge for the U.S. Department of Labor. "By reaching out to EPA, she forced the lead issue to the forefront of her supervisor's agenda, and shortly thereafter, he recommended that she be fired," Levin wrote of Bhat. The costs for WASA could total more than $500,000, said Bhat's attorney, Bryan J. Schwartz of the D.C. firm Passman & Kaplan. Although WASA was aware of the lead problem as early as 2002, the contamination, which affected thousands of homes, was not made public until a Washington Post story disclosed the results of the agency's tests in January 2004. Washington Post_ 11/03/05 (logon required)

October, 2005

Lead-laced water detected at Camp Pendleton schools

Excessive lead levels in Camp Pendleton's water supply have been detected in several schools on the marine base, 10News reported. Officials at the Southern California base said Thursday tests show excessive lead in the water at three schools. Extensive testing was ordered after too much lead was found last month in the water supply to base housing. Base officials are providing bottled water to the schools for drinking and cooking. Water fountains have also been turned off at the schools and letters sent home to parents. An investigation continues to find the source of the lead contamination. Base water wells are suspected, according to 10News. 10News.com_ 10/13/05

After 20 years, South Carolina targets lead in water

Richland County installed equipment Friday to treat the water at Franklin Park, after the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control fast-tracked permits for the work. The OK follows months of community criticism of the agency and questions this week from The State newspaper about the health concerns of Franklin Park residents. The State was the first to report about the lead in Franklin Park’s water in June. In the past decade, lead has shown up in people’s drinking water dozens of times. The State_ 10/8/05

September, 2005

Water test confirms high levels of lead in 11 homes at California's Camp Pendleton

A retest of Camp Pendleton water samples has confirmed the high levels of lead found at 11 homes earlier this week. Base officials are trying to determine how many civilian employees, Marines and their family members may have been exposed to the contaminated water. More water samples taken from taps in houses, schools, barracks and child development centers will be analyzed in the coming days, said Lt. Nate Braden, a base spokesman. Base officials aren't sure where the lead is coming from, but water experts said the likely causes are old pipes or fixtures in the homes. San Diego Union Tribune_ 9/25/05

Durham water to be tested for lead
Officials from the N.C. Division of Public Health next month plan to begin testing water samples from 100 Durham sites to see if plumbing in some older homes is leaching lead into drinking water.  The toxic element can be ingested from water, from lead-based paint still found in some older homes and even from some vinyl products such as poorly made children's lunchboxes.  Though great efforts and millions of dollars have been spent in recent years on eliminating lead poisoning in Durham, it remains a problem in some households. Healdsun.com_9/21/05

Lead contamination found in Washington County Missouri drinking water

Wells at risk in the 'Old Lead Belt'

State and federal investigators have found high levels of lead contamination in 36 drinking wells in part of the southern Missouri region known as the Old Lead Belt, and are advising residents to stop drinking water from those wells. The wells serve about 135 people in and around the towns of Potosi, Cadet and Mineral Point, all in Washington County, Missouri Department of Natural Resources officials said Wednesday. The investigation conducted by the DNR and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is part of a wider look at lead contamination in southern Missouri. BelleviewNewsDemocrat.com_9/14/05

 

Lead in your tap water?

Risk from household fixtures

Lead may pose greater leaching risk than standard tests show In critiquing a common safety standard for brass used in plumbing, researchers have found the regimen may be flawed. As a result, they say, some of the lead that crept into tap water in Washington, D.C., and other metropolitan areas may be traceable to household fixtures, valves and other components and not just pipes and systems further from the home.   Medical News Today_8/05/05

 

Montgomery County, Va. switches to chloramination

High levels of lead not feared

Conversion to a new system for disinfecting the drinking water for most of Montgomery County, Va. went "as smooth as silk", said Jerry Higgins, superintendent of the Blacksburg Christiansburg VPI Water Authority.  The new system, called chloramination, mixes ammonia with chlorinated water, which creates substances called chloramines. The chloramines stay in the water longer than chlorine, making it safe from bacteria over a longer time.  About 30 percent of water works across the country, including several in Virginia, chloraminate their water without any detectable problems. But two municipalities -- Washington, D.C., and Greenville, N.C. -- have recently found high levels of lead after switching to chloramination.  Roanoke.com_6/28/05

 

Water treatment process called potential risk

Chloramine treatment investigated

A combination of chemicals used in hundreds of water-treatment systems across the country could cause lead to leach into drinking water from plumbing, University of North Carolina-Asheville researchers say.  Richard P. Maas, an environmental science professor, said the chemical interaction could cause elevated lead levels.  About 500 systems across the country have switched to the so-called chloramine treatment since 2001, Maas said, to meet federal requirements.  "We suspect there are hundreds of other towns out there whose tap water lead contamination has gone up substantially but have not come to light yet," he said.  Maas and Steven C. Patch, co-directors of the Environmental Quality Institute at UNC-Asheville, said their research showed that a combination of chloramines and fluorosilicic acid, especially with extra amounts of ammonia, increases lead leaching. Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia, and is added to disinfect water. Fluorosilicic acid is often added to water to improve dental health, a process known as fluoridation.  The News and Observer_ May 19, 2005 logon required

 

D.C. water lead levels below federal limits
Consumers urged to continue precautions

Lead levels in the District's drinking water have fallen substantially in recent months and dropped below the federal action limit for the first time in four years, the general manager of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority said.

But the authority urged consumers to continue to take precautions, including using water filters.  The declining lead levels are proof that orthophosphate, a chemical added to the city's water system since last summer, is working, Jerry N. Johnson, the utility's general manager, said in an interview.  Washington Post _5/11/05 

 

Washington, D.C. tests show drop in drinking water lead levels

Recent tests of drinking water in several dozen District homes show encouraging declines in lead levels, a sign that a new chemical treatment begun in August is having an impact, D.C. Water and Sewer Authority General Manager Jerry N. Johnson said. High lead levels in city drinking water since 2002 have triggered federal requirements for the utility to issue public warnings and undertake a lead-line replacement program. To reduce the levels, water treatment officials are adding an orthophosphate chemical to create a protective lining inside pipes so they do not leach lead into the water. If the promising test results continue through December, officials could lift a health advisory urging residents to flush out or filter their water before drinking it. Johnson said he was optimistic but not ready to declare victory. Washington Post_ 3/12/05

EPA cracks down on lead in drinking water

Stricter monitoring and reporting of problems with lead in drinking water will be required of utilities, states, schools and child care facilities, the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday. EPA officials said they found few such problems nationally, but were moving to impose stricter requirements in 1991 lead and copper regulations, starting early next year, because of lead in drinking water found in 2002 in the Washington area. Those problems gained widespread attention two years later, and residents complained that the city had done little to alert them. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 3/7/05

February, 2005

Lead in drinking water and other parts of environment causing violent crime - Study

Dr. Herbert Needleman, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine said lead left in paint, water, soil and elsewhere may not only be affecting children's intelligence but may cause a significant proportion of violent crime. He said the U.S. government needs to do more to lower lead levels in the environment and parents need to think more about where their children may be getting exposed to lead. His study suggested that between 18 percent and 38 percent of delinquent crimes in the Pittsburgh area could be attributed to lead toxicity in the adolescents. Reuters_ 2/18/05

January, 2005

Lifetime of low-level exposure to lead may contribute to mental decline as people age, study of older men suggests

Lead is a toxic metal that is present in the air, soil and water, though public health efforts in recent decades to reduce environmental levels -- by taking lead out of gasoline and paints, for example -- have cut Americans' lead exposure. Adults with persistently high blood levels of lead can face health consequences as well -- including high blood pressure, and damage to the kidneys, brain and nerves. Relatively little is known about the cumulative effects of "general-population levels of exposure," according to Dr. Marc G. Weisskopf of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, the lead author on the new study.  Reuters_ 1/7/05

December, 2004

Lifetime exposure to lead from paint, drinking water pipes and other sources appears to increase men's risk of cataracts

The study by lead author Debra Schaumberg of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston is published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.The report did not speculate about whether the findings would also apply to women. In the United States about 20 percent of those in their 60s develop cataracts. The problem accounts for more than 40 percent of all cases of blindness worldwide, the report said. Reuters_ 12/7/04

Washington, D.C. to replace 2,800 lead pipes over next year to reduce drinking water contamination

The program is part of the Water and Sewer Authority's plan to replace all the city's estimated 23,000 lead pipes by 2010 at a cost of $300 million. The agency's Board of Directors mandated the plan after tests showed that thousands of District homes had water with lead levels above the federal safety limit. Washington Post_ 11/13/04 (logon required)

New York schools report lead in water, some schools resist state

All 4,500 schools in the state were contacted beginning in April and just 700 have responded. So far, the survey shows 120 of the 700 schools that responded reported at least one test that showed lead levels above the federal standard. Board of Regents Vice Chancellor Adelaide Sanford said the schools must respond to the survey because the proven negative effect lead in a student's bloodstream has on academic performance. Lead has been blamed on learning disabilities, hearing loss, attention deficit disorders and irreversible neurological damage. AP/Newsday_ 11/4/04

Seattle School Board committee OKs drinking water policy for lead and other contaminants that far exceeds federal EPA limits

Under the policy, which must still be approved by the full, seven-member School Board, all cold-water drinking sources would be sampled for lead and cadmium, and select locations in each school would be tested for other contaminants. Other school districts around the country have adopted lead limits that are more stringent than the federal government's. Seattle Post-Intelligencer_ 11/3/04

October, 2004

Two Senators urge probe of EPA on lead in water

They said they were alarmed by reports that utilities often violate rules designed to reduce lead in drinking water. Members of the Senate also renewed a push for strict new laws to reduce lead contamination in drinking water and to require that the public be alerted quickly to lead risks. The demands followed a Washington Post report yesterday that dozens of water utilities are manipulating lead test results, violating federal law in some cases and putting customers at risk. Washington Post_ 10/6/04

Investigation: Lead levels in drinking water misrepresented across the U.S.; Utilities manipulate or withhold test results to ward off regulators

Cities across the country are manipulating the results of tests used to detect lead in water, violating federal law and putting millions of Americans at risk of drinking more of the contaminant than their suppliers are reporting. The result is that communities large and small may have a false sense of security about the quality of their water and that utilities can avoid spending money to correct the problem. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is supposed to ensure that states are monitoring utilities, has also let communities ignore requirements to reduce lead. Washington Post_ 10/5/04

September, 2004

Washington state offers districts $750,000 matching funds to test for lead in elementary school fountains

Districts will be required to provide a 25 percent match to receive the money, but such an assist should help cash-strapped districts like Seattle, which has spent about $2.25 million and estimates it could cost more than $6 million to remedy its lead problems. Gov. Gary Locke said there are no known cases of lead poisoning caused by drinking water in the state and that of 44 states reporting to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Washington has the third-lowest percentage of children zero to 6 with elevated blood lead levels. Seattle Times_ 9/9/04

 

July, 2004

New Mexico State University finds lead in water at student housing complex
The university is replacing water filtration systems and taking other action to remedy the problem. A school official says elevated levels of lead were found in drinking water in some units of the complex at last summer but the school wasn’t sure what action to take and residents weren’t alerted to the problem and it wasn’t fixed. AP/KOBTV_ 7/19/04

Seattle, Washington schools' lead levels 'severe'
Water drawn from drinking fountains throughout Seattle's public schools is contaminated with lead that exceeds the maximum level recommended by the federal government -- and in many cases, the toxic concentrations rise far above that threshold, according to districtwide tests now nearing completion. Administrators have decided to replace all pipes and fountains at four schools, but they are exploring cheaper options for other schools.  Seattle Post-Intelligencer_ 7/1/04

June, 2004

Fewer than 4 percent of large- and medium-sized U.S. drinking water systems have exceeded EPA's lead action level

The information represents lead monitoring conducted by 89 percent of the nation's large and medium drinking water systems since 2000. Together these systems serve more than 200 million people. Press Release_ 6/23/04

Washington, D.C. Water and Sewer Authority's chief engineer resigns to head public works in Houston
Michael S. Marcotte, 53, has been the top engineer at WASA since 1997 and led the agency's technical response to findings of excessive lead in much of the city's drinking water. His resignation, effective July 9, follows a period of intense pressure on the agency from city and federal officials, who have complained that WASA failed to respond quickly to the lead problem and did not fully inform the public of health risks. Agency sources said Marcotte was not fired and was considering leaving WASA before the lead problem created a public outcry four months ago. Washington Post_ 6/19/04

Washington, D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) adds lead-protection chemical to drinking water

Officials said orthophosphate is supposed to form a protective coating inside lead water pipes, to keep lead from leaching into the water. The lead-reduction program will reach the entire city and Northern Virginia in phases over several weeks. AP/NBC4.com_ 6/1/04

June, 2004

Lead levels in D.C. water slashed after switch from chloramines disinfectants to chlorine
The change in disinfectants for annual pipe-flushing this spring provides the first concrete evidence of the cause of excessive lead levels in thousands of homes. The treatment plants stopped using chlorine in 2000 because it creates byproducts that are linked to cancer with chronic exposure. Water experts say further study is needed before they decide whether chlorine will play a role in solving the city's lead problem.

Washington Post_ 5/21/04

AWWA advocates independent study of DC lead situation in U.S. House Committee testimony; Lead problem does not appear to be nationwide
The American Water Works Association (AWWA) emphatically supports measures to reduce lead exposure and promote public health, AWWA Water Utility Chairman Howard Neukrug told the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform during testimony on elevated lead levels in Washington D.C.'s drinking water and the situation's national implications. His recommendations included asking a group such as the National Academy of Engineering to examine the Washington, D.C. incident for lessons that can be learned. Press Release_ 5/21/04

Washington, D.C. to add the anti-corrosion agent zinc orthophosphate to the city's water supply to reduce lead levels
Washington residents have been drinking bottled water and lining up for blood tests since January, when local media first reported poorly publicized official tests showing water lead levels exceeded federal standards in thousands of homes in the U.S. capital.  Reuters_ 5/19/04

Washington, D.C.'s Water and Sewer Authority's new public health adviser says lead in drinking water is a minor source of exposure for children and poses the greatest risk to those who already have high lead levels in their blood from other sources
The view of Tee L. Guidotti, a physician and public health expert from George Washington University, that water accounts for 7 percent of the lead exposure in 2-year-olds is different from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's widely cited estimate that water accounts for as much as 20 percent of lead exposure for the overall population. Guidotti said his figure for toddlers comes from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which is part of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.  Washington Post_ 5/7/04 (logon required)

April, 2004

U.S. Senator seeks reform of Safe Drinking Water Act in wake of D.C. lead problems
Sen. James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.) said he will propose legislation to provide better notification for residents whose water has high lead levels, require increased water testing in schools and day-care centers nationwide and provide more federal funding to upgrade distribution systems. Jeffords made his announcement as he and other senators grilled the leaders of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about their handling of the findings that thousands of D.C. homes have water with lead levels that exceed federal limits. Washington Post_ 4/8/04

Washington, D.C, water authority hires a George Washington University toxicology team to advise it on ways to protect public health and improve communication with residents
The move came amid criticism from city leaders, environmentalists and residents over WASA's handling of findings last summer that thousands of homes had water with lead levels that exceeded the federal safety limit. Washington Post 4/3/04

Washington, D.C.'s water authority violated lead rule, EPA says
The water agency violated federal law by failing to properly notify city residents of high lead levels in the drinking water and to adequately protect public health, regulators at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday. The EPA's letter represents the first official declaration by the federal government that local officials acted improperly. Washington Post 4/2/04

March, 2004

EPA asks for states' plans to monitor lead in schools' drinking water

The EPA letter asks state health and environmental officials to describe the programs that monitor lead in drinking water at schools and day-care centers. If they do not have a program, they are to outline other steps being taken to control lead exposure. Washington Post 3/28/04

Washington fires health chief over handling of lead in drinking water
The mayor's office acknowledged it dismissed James A. Buford, the health director, and replaced him with an interim director, Herbert R. Tillery, the deputy mayor for operations.
New York Times 3/27/04

D.C. gets 12,000 more water filters but struggles with how to distribute them
Procter & Gamble Co. made the latest donation. Earlier Brita Products Co. supplied 10,600 water filter pitchers. City officials still working on distribution plan. AP/WTOP 3/18/04

3% of tested D.C. children showed high levels of lead
D.C. health officials said they have identified 11 children younger than 6 with elevated blood lead levels, about 3 percent of the 360 tested since initial reports of excessive lead in tap water in thousands of District homes. But it isn't clear yet whether the 11 children were exposed to lead from their faucets. Washington Post 3/13/04

WASA agrees to implement interim plan for lead; Multi-agency corrosion team presents EPA with strategy
The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) will begin immediately to implement an interim action plan to ensure safe drinking water to residents while corrosion control efforts proceed, EPA Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh announced today. Press Release 3/10/04

DC mayor seeks U.S. Government help for lead woes
Washington Mayor Anthony Williams called on Wednesday for federal help in dealing with dangerous levels of lead in the capital's drinking water as he scrambled to contain a serious public health threat and public relations disaster. Reuters 3/10/04

Washington DC sued by residents over lead in water
Angry Washington residents filed suit on Monday against city authorities they said kept the public in the dark about excessive levels of poisonous lead in tap water in the nation's capital for more than two years. Reuters 3/8/04

D.C. water authority defends firing manager who told EPA of lead problems
A water quality manager was fired by the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority because she was rude to superiors and failed to inform them of key findings, not because she reported lead contamination to federal authorities, the agency argued in court proceedings this week. Her attorney denies the allegations. Washington Post 3/6/04

D.C. handling of lead issue blasted on hill
EPA threatens to step in, oversee water system

Federal officials described the levels of lead contamination in the District's drinking water as the worst seen by regulators and threatened to step in if local officials do not take immediate steps to protect the public. Washington Post 3/6/04

Arlington County, Virginia joins D.C. in issuing warning on lead in water
Arlington County officials are recommending pregnant women and young children drink only tap water that has been flushed or filtered, after preliminary tests of water in eight homes showed five had elevated levels of lead. Washington Post 3/3/04

February, 2004

Washington water warnings started 10 years ago

The first warnings about lead contamination in DC's water supply came ten years ago. AP/WTOP 2/29/04

Washington, D.C. health officials are warning pregnant women and children under 6 who live in homes with lead service lines to stop drinking unfiltered tap water and have their blood tested. AP/Post Intelligencer 2/24/04

 

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