- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Arlington County officials say test results released yesterday of drinking-water samples in schools, day care centers and homes offer strong indications that there is no systemwide problem with elevated lead levels.

County officials said 12 of 354 samples taken last week showed levels of the metal higher than the Environmental Protection Agency action level of 15 parts per billion, and more than half showed no traces of lead at all.

“These are strong indications that Arlington does not have a systemwide problem with lead in the county’s water-delivery system,” said Randy Bartlett, Arlington’s director of infrastructure and operations.

The additional testing was conducted after a small sampling of eight homes revealed that five had elevated lead levels.

Samples of D.C. Water and Sewer Authority water taken at more than 4,000 homes in the District since 2002 have found lead levels well above the safe range of 15 parts per billion.

The District and Arlington, along with Falls Church, get water from the Washington Aqueduct, which is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Arlington County officials said seven samples from five schools out of 218 samples taken at 42 public and parochial schools in the county exceeded the EPA threshold. But they linked the results to individual fixtures, not to the entire buildings, citing tests on other fixtures in the five buildings that did not show elevated levels of lead.

At the schools where lead was detected Ashlawn Elementary School, Campbell Elementary School, the H.B. Woodlawn/Stratford Program and the Reed and Wilson buildings all water fountains have been turned off. The schools have installed temporary water coolers to provide drinking water until additional tests can be taken and analyzed from all water sources.

Of 96 samples taken at day care facilities, only two exceeded the EPA threshold. In each case, the elevated levels were in water that had been standing overnight.

Second tests at both locations, after the water had been running, were well below the EPA action level.

Of 35 new samples taken at homes, those with initial high readings tested well below the EPA action level after flushing faucets for about 90 seconds.

“This is good news so far, however, it is important for us to do additional testing,” said Barbara Favola, chairman of the Arlington County Board of Supervisors. County officials said they plan to test an additional 200 homes based on age, geography and building type.

Dr. Claire Cifaloglio, a pediatrician and Arlington school health physician, recommended that homes with pregnant and nursing women and children younger than 6 flush their water lines for at least one minute before drawing tap water and use filtered cold water for cooking and drinking.

Marc Edwards, a civil engineering professor at Virginia Tech who has studied the problem of lead contamination in the District’s water, said the results were encouraging, but that county officials should continue to be vigilant.

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