Washington's water woes.For at least two years the concentration of lead in Washington, D.C., drinking water has dramatically exceeded the action level at which the Safe Drinking Water Act The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is a United States federal law passed by the U.S. Congress on December 16, 1974. It is the main federal law that ensures safe drinking water for Americans. requires water systems to address the problem. By this summer, additional steps had been taken to address water quality through treatment, but these steps will take months to become fully effective. Indeed, the controversy surrounding the problem resembles the plot of a political potboiler pot·boil·er
A literary or artistic work of poor quality, produced quickly for profit.
[From the phrase boil the pot, to provide one's livelihood. , and blood tests and water filters are still hot topics among Washingtonians.
Of approximately 130,000 residences served by the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, or WASA was created in 1996. The District of Columbia Government and the United States Government established WASA as a semiautonomous regional entity. WASA's finances are completely separated from DC's finances. (DCWASA DCWASA District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority ), an estimated 18% have lead service pipes. Lead is in some older solder and plumbing fixtures as well. Paint and dust remain the main sources of lead exposure in the United States, but on average 10-20% of U.S. environmental lead exposure comes from drinking water, according to the EPA EPA eicosapentaenoic acid.
n.pr See acid, eicosapentaenoic.
n. . (Experts largely agree, however, that the Safe Drinking Water Act amendments have greatly reduced exposure from the lead service pipes that still serve many households in older communities throughout the country.) Lead exposure impairs intellectual and physical development in fetuses and young children. In adults, it appears to increase the risk for hypertension and kidney disease.
Under the Lead and Copper Rule of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), independent agency of the U.S. government, with headquarters in Washington, D.C. It was established in 1970 to reduce and control air and water pollution, noise pollution, and radiation and to ensure the safe handling and (EPA), water systems are required to develop a plan to lower lead levels if 10% of residences tested exceed 15 parts per billion (ppb). According to Alexandra Teitz, minority counsel for the House Committee on Government Reform, 73% of one set of water samples from Washington homes exceeded the action level, with numerous samples exceeding 100 ppb and some exceeding 300 ppb. Moreover, before 2002, DCWASA was required to test only 50 residences each year.
Washington's recent water quality troubles may have begun as early as November 2000. That's when health officials, with the EPA's approval, stopped using chlorine disinfection disinfection,
n the process of destroying pathogenic organisms or rendering them inert.
disinfection, full oral cavity,
n a procedure used to reduce active periodontal disease, usually completed within a certain short time frame. because of its by-products. The city switched to a chlorine-ammonia compound called chloramine chloramine: see hydrazine. to disinfect To remove the virus code that has attached itself to a legitimate file. Sometimes, the antivirus program cannot untangle the code, and the infected file has to be deleted. See quarantine. the water, while using pH adjustments to control corrosion. Unbeknownst to scientists and water utilities at the time, says Johnnie Hemphill, interim director for public affairs at DCWASA, pH adjustments are not as effective without chlorine. The absence of chlorine was not implicated until 2004--water system officials used chlorine in April and May of that year, and lead levels temporarily dropped, says Hemphill.
Consumers were first informed of the elevated lead levels in October 2002 via water bill inserts and a mailed brochure--means that some critics say tended to downplay the situation. As Hemphill explains it, the EPA then demanded that DCWASA explain whether it had failed to adequately monitor for lead or to adequately alert the public and the EPA about the elevated levels.
At the same time, members of Congress charged the EPA with failing to adequately protect the country's drinking water. "The District and its residents were unknowingly forced to serve as a 'canary in the coal mine' for lead in drinking water," asserted Representative Henry Waxman (D-California) in a statement presented at a congressional hearing in May 2004. "We have now been clearly warned about the flaws in our national program on lead in drinking water."
In June, officials in Washington began adding phosphoric acid, a food additive, to a small portion of the system to protect the pipes. In July, DCWASA accelerated its timetable for replacing its lead service lines, promising to complete the job by 2010 (under EPA regulations, water systems need replace only a small percentage of public service lines per year and may approve lines using lead testing in lieu of actual pipe replacement). The city is offering loans to those residents who want to replace the part of the line on their property, which is the homeowner's responsibility.
Blood tests, which the city has offered for free to residents, are indicating that the number of Washingtonians with high blood lead levels has not increased, Hemphill says. But this good news is overshadowed by studies showing that even at blood levels below the current cutoff of 10 micrograms per deciliter deciliter /dec·i·li·ter/ (dL) (des´i-le?ter) one tenth (10minus;1) of a liter; 100 milliliters.
100 cubic centimeters (cc).
Mentioned in: Hypercholesterolemia ([micro]g/dL), lead can lower children's IQ and cause behavior problems, says Lynn Goldman, an environmental health scientist at The Johns Hopkins University Johns Hopkins University, mainly at Baltimore, Md. Johns Hopkins in 1867 had a group of his associates incorporated as the trustees of a university and a hospital, endowing each with $3.5 million. Daniel C. . A task force from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), agency of the U.S. Public Health Service since 1973, with headquarters in Atlanta; it was established in 1946 as the Communicable Disease Center. is considering recommending that the cutoff be lowered to 5 pg/dL, although Goldman notes that many experts think there is no threshold for the toxic effects of lead.