- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The District has examined the results of 1,001 of the 1,267 city residents who had their blood tested for lead contamination, and Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday there is nothing to indicate any reason for heightened concern about the city’s water supply.

“We’re not seeing significant numbers of individuals with elevated lead levels in the blood,” Mr. Williams said. Only 47 were pregnant or nursing women, and none showed evidence of heightened lead levels.

Tests were run on 327 children younger than 6, another group considered most at risk of developing lead poisoning. According to statistics compiled by the D.C. 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 the 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,” Mr. Williams said.

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.

Mr. Williams also said federal agencies involved in the treatment, distribution and monitoring of the city’s water supply have to be held accountable.

“We’re going to seek federal funding and in-kind assistance to protect the taxpayers of the District and ratepayers of WASA from shouldering the financial burden,” he said.

Although the exact cause of the increased lead levels has not been determined, city officials think 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 Falls Church. The formulation change was made in November 2001 to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The EPA has direct responsibility for monitoring water quality in the nation’s capital.

“When they changed the composition of the water, we’re finding the problems,” said Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican. Mrs. Schwartz co-chairs the interagency task force directing the city’s response to the lead-contamination problem.

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