- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Some home water lines listed as copper are actually made of lead, and that apparently contributed to elevated lead levels in tap water at those houses, D.C. officials announced yesterday.

“Well over two-thirds of the number were actually lead on both sides,” Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) Chief Engineer Michael S. Marcotte said.

Mr. Marcotte said pipe inspections at 49 houses listed as having copper lines revealed that 42 of them have all lead or partially lead lines. He said 32 are lead on both sides, meaning that they are made of lead from the main to the meter and from the meter to the house.

WASA planned to revise its records to indicate the correct pipe material as needed.

Spikes in lead levels in city tap water began showing up in late 2001. Testing later conducted at thousands of homes indicated several with lead levels exceeding the 15 parts per billion considered acceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This month, WASA began digging test pits in the yards of some houses where high lead levels have been found in water samples. The pits gave technicians a chance to examine service lines.

WASA officials said they will continue to check service lines at other houses recorded as having copper pipes. But they do not expect the end result to significantly change the original estimate, indicating that 23,000 homes in the city have lead service lines, and possibly elevated lead levels in tap water.

Also yesterday, City Administrator Robert C. Bobb said a half-dozen investigations connected to the water problem are under way.

Mr. Bobb said answers are needed on why agencies such as WASA and the EPA did not notify the mayor, D.C. Council members, or the city administrator about the elevated lead levels when they realized the magnitude of the problem.

“We will find out why in due course,” said Mr. Bobb, who expects that the final reports from the investigations will reveal answers.

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