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Water for DC Kids press release
February 27, 2004




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For Immediate Release
Friday, February 27, 2004
Contact: Melody Webb
(202) 554-8519, (202) 276-9253-cell

Web Site: http://www.waterfordckids.org

D.C. Parents' Group Asks Mayor for Public Health Precautions to Protect City's Children, Especially the Indigent, From Lead-Contaminated Water

Washington, DC -- Water for D.C. Kids is mobilizing parents to preserve Mayor Anthony Williams to adopt a platform of strategies to more aggressively protect the city's children from lead-contaminated water by making health water alternatives available to all children, including a free water and filter program for participants in the city's Women Infant Children program for indigent families.

Water samples drawn from some 4,000 D.C. residences last summer exceed the lead limit of 15 ppb, an actionable threshold level established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Reports indicate that D.C. Water and Sewer Authority has been aware of the problem of elevated lead levels since as early as 2002; however, WASA failed to notify those personally affected and the public at large of the problem. Pregnant women and children under age  in lead-line serviced homes are advised not to drink unfiltered water.

The number of residents, particularly children, affected by lead levels is unknown as is the cause of the contamination problem. "While experts seek answers, parents and caregivers want clean water alternatives now for all of D.C.'s children, as a matter of justice since we don't know who all is affected", stated Melody Webb, whose efforts are particularly concerned with the plight of the impoverished.

The group is especially focused on the impact upon infants and children, since they are at highest rish of poisoning from exposure to high lead levels in water, especially when coupled with exposure to other forms of lead. The group expressed grave disappointment in the city's delayed testing of the schools. The Mayor, in tandem with WASA's inaction, failed to demand immediate testing of city schools, with the result that lead testing in the city's public schools occurred only last weekend. Compare that to the Catholic Archbishop, who quickly moved to shut down fountains and begin testing.

The group calls government action to-date inadequate. Melody Webb, a lawyer heading the group, expressed outrage toward the mayor for failing to take public health precautions to address the problem while efforts are made to determine the causes of the problem. "Aren't all the city's children at risk since each and every tap in the city could be receiving water carried through either lead pipes or lead components that may be leaching lead because of chemicals being used to treat the city's filthy source water -- the Potomac River? If there is a chance, any chance at all, that we are feeding lethal tap water to our children -- the Mayor ought to aggressively test the city's children and (through sampling or otherwise) every single source of drinking water in the cdity, particularly those servicing infants, children and pregnant women" said Webb. 

Davonyah Smith, a Southeast Washington residents stated "As a single mother with children aged 7, 8 and 10 in the city's public schools, I find it a struggle to buy bottled water for them at home and at school. The city needs to give free water or filters to people who can't afford it until they figure out what is going on".

The group is calling for a number of measures, including the following: 

  1. D.C. families with pregnant women and young children are outraged about this filtering of information by WASA and D.C. elected officials regarding the threat posed by this water emergency that we are facing. We want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the risks that we face. 
  2. Families want a comprehensive set of public health precautions that extend to every single pregnant woman and child under the age of 6 who resides in the District of Columbia. These include children free bottled water, free filters, and taxpayer rebates for families. 
  3. Families want a far-reaching public education effort to inform all families with pregnant women and children, in particular the indigent. 
  4. Families want each and every household in the city, as well as all licensed child care facilities and institutions serving children, to be provided with water testing kits and to have results revealed summarily. 
  5. Families want the city to affirmatively assist all residences in identifying potential sources of lead contamination within their property lines, and in their home plumbing and fixtures. Families want the city to institute a program to assist homeowners and landlords in financing the cost of replacing such lead components and plumbing. 

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