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Information for Consumers

Important information about lead
Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources. It can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children. Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults. Lead is stored in the bones, and it can be released later in life. During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother's bones, which may affect brain development.

Reducing Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water: Everyone has a Role

Here’s how these organizations work to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water:
Washington Aqueduct
● Very low lead levels occur in source and treated water (often, no lead is detected in source or treated water)
● Corrosion control treatment (maintains constant pH – a measure of acidity - and adds orthophosphate)
● Monitors to ensure water is minimally corrosive as it leaves the treatment plants
● Reports results to EPA

D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (DC WASA) otherwise known as (DC Water)
● Monitors at locations most likely to have lead problems to determine effectiveness of the corrosion control treatment
● Replaces public lead service lines when homeowners replace private lines, or in conjunction with road or water system repairs
● Participates in national research studies
● Reports results to EPA

What is EPA’s role?
EPA:
…reviews treatment processes, monitoring plans, and results to determine effectiveness of corrosion control
…develops regulations and guidance
…performs and funds corrosion research
…maintains a website on lead in DC drinking water (www.epa.gov/dclead)
…provides technical assistance to Washington Aqueduct, DCWASA, and other District agencies
…reviews outreach and publications from DC water systems, as requested

Here are steps you can take to further reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water:
● Before using water for drinking or cooking - especially if the water has been sitting unused for several hours - let the water run from your tap until it is as cold as it will get. This may take up to 2 minutes.
● Use only cold water for drinking and cooking
● Heat cold water on the stove or in the microwave for preparing infant formula
● Periodically, remove and clean the strainer/aerator device on your faucets
● Purchase faucets and other plumbing fixtures/fittings with the lowest lead content possible that are  certified by an independent testing agency, such as NSF International
● Replace leaded pipes and plumbing (including private portions of lead service lines)

If you have specific concerns:
● Request water sampling kits from a certified laboratory to measure lead-in-water levels
● Talk with your health care provider about blood lead testing and other health questions

Link to printable version of this information-PDF [1p, 2m, about pdf]

See the Related Links page for additional consumer information

This site contains information on lead and related drinking water issues specifically for District of Columbia residents. Although lead levels have been below the action level for several monitoring periods, water quality monitoring and research continue.  The sections below highlight the status of these efforts.

Update on Lead in Drinking Water (November 2014)

Lead Monitoring Results and Status of Orthophosphate Treatment
In July 2014, EPA received DC Water's most recent report on lead levels in DC drinking water. DC Water reported that 90 percent of the samples had lead levels of 2 parts per billion (ppb) or less, below EPA's lead action level of 15 ppb.  DC Water has met the lead action level since 2005.

Since August 2004, the Washington Aqueduct has been adding orthophosphate to the drinking water as a corrosion inhibitor. Orthophosphate is a tasteless, odorless, food-grade additive that is used by many water systems to control corrosion. It works by forming a protective coating inside pipes that decreases the amount of lead that leaches from lead service lines and customers' plumbing systems. Orthophosphate was added to the entire DC distribution system beginning on August 23, 2004.

Lead Service Line (LSL) Replacement
For more information on changes to the scope of DC Water's LSL replacement program, please visit DC Water's website. Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer EPA encourages homeowners to replace the portion of the LSL on their private property and to contact DC Water Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer to find out about financing options.

Status of Corrosion Control and Treatment Changes
Since August 2004, the Washington Aqueduct has been adding orthophosphate to the drinking water as a corrosion inhibitor. Orthophosphate is a tasteless, odorless, food-grade additive that is used by many water systems to control corrosion. It works by forming a protective coating inside pipes that decreases the amount of lead that leaches from lead service lines and customers' plumbing systems. Orthophosphate was added to the entire DC distribution system beginning on August 23, 2004.   Please see the Corrosion Control page for more information. 

EPA Region 3 approved [PDF, 2pp, 472k, about pdf] the Washington Aqueduct’s implementation of sodium hypochlorite for disinfection and caustic soda for pH control. The conversion to hypochlorite for disinfection represents a safety improvement and the addition of caustic soda will improve pH and corrosion control.
More Information [90pp,15M,about pdf]

Study of Potential Causative Events
EPA released in August 2007a report with the results of an extensive study evaluating factors that contributed to elevated levels of lead in drinking water for many residents served by the DC Water and Sewer Authority in the early part of the decade.

Compliance with Administrative Order
The May 2007 Administrative Penalty Order [7pp, 224k, about pdf] closed the 2004 Administrative Order. [35pp, 179k, about pdf], corresponding supplement [PDF, 8 pages, 60K, about pdf ] on January 14, 2005 and modification [PDF, 5 pages, 244 K, about pdf]of the Administrative Order in June 2005.  This table [18pp, 84k, about pdf] includes a list of Order requirements, deadlines, and the status of each requirement.  

A penalty was assessed due to settlement of an August 2006 EPA administrative complaint [PDF, 17pp, 969k, about pdf] concerning WASA's failure to comply with data management and reporting requirements of the 2004 Safe Drinking Water Act consent order. EPA's May 22, 2007 press release provides additional information on this action.

Research
Members of the Technical Expert Working Group (TEWG) continue to meet by teleconference on a regular basis.  The TEWG consists of the Washington Aqueduct, DC WASA, the D.C. Department of Health, the District Department of the Environment, EPA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and multiple expert consultants hired by the various groups.  Originally formed in February 2004, the TEWG continues as a forum for discussing treatment changes, on-going research, and coordinating communications. 

Several studies related to the D.C. lead issue are helping to ensure the D.C. utilities go beyond compliance with the Lead and Copper rule.  Please see the research section of the Corrosion Control page for additional details on research projects.

DCWASA is DC Water
On June 15, 2010, DC WASA announced it would begin doing business as DC Water, though “District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority” remains the full legal name of the organization. References to both “DC Water” and “DC WASA” are contained on www.epa.gov/dclead. For more information, please visit DC Water’s website. Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer

 


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