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Water for DC Kids 
Press release
March 3, 2004




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For Immediate Release 
Wednesday, March 3, 2004 
Contact: Melody Webb
(202) 554-8519, (202)276-9253-cell

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

Group Argues That Arlington Delivers the Verdict: Lead Contamination Is A Threat To All D.C. Residents,
Anything Other Than Universal Public Health Measures for All Residents, Including Apartment Dwellers, Is Discriminatory

Washington, DC-- In the wake of reports that the source of lead contamination in the city's water is likely corrosion-causing chemicals, it is now clear that all residents of D.C. are potentially at risk of high lead levels in their water. Previously, WASA and D.C. officials advised that the likeliest source of high lead levels was city lead lines that are especially vulnerable to corrosion and that serve older single family homes. Testing done in Arlington County, Virginia, which purchases water from D.C. and uses no lead service lines, has solidly anchored the theory that the problem extends beyond homes with lead service lines. The high lead levels found in several Arlington residences that were recently tested shows that any lead source in the water system of D.C. could be leaching lead into the water, including copper pipes with lead solder, fixtures with lead content, and other lead plumbing. Arlington officials have issued an advisory to all pregnant women and children under age 6 regarding consumption of the city's tap water.

Water for D.C. Kids is mobilizing parents, particularly low-income families, to pressure Mayor Anthony Williams to immediately follow the call of this increasingly likely explanation of the problem and to copy the example of Arlington County by expanding its advisory to cover all, not just lead service line, residences. 

"The city's dilatory and limited set of public health initiatives to address the problem so far have been built around this lead service line premise, a shaky foundation that is now sinking before our very eyes. Tragically, that lead service line premise has under-estimated the risk group, the scope of testing and the amount of assistance needed for affected D.C. residents. Wake up, city leaders. The city's fetuses, babies and children are paying for your self-serving inadequate actions to protect the health of D.C. citizens" says Webb.

The number of residents, particularly children, affected by lead levels is unknown as is the cause of the contamination problem. "From this day forward the clock is ticking on the moral, if not legal liability, of D.C. leaders, who have to see now the blinding mandate to do something and something right now to preclude any further citizens' exposure to lead."

Water for D.C. Kids is especially concerned about the impact of the water emergency on the poor and apartment dwellers, who are often the same. Webb believes that the findings in Arlington are a watershed moment with far-reaching implications for the public health actions by the Mayor of Washington, D.C.. "The Arlington case has just firebombed the floodgates. We now know that it is highly likely that every single child under age 6, that every single pregnant and nursing woman is likely 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' source water. Arlington is taking this precaution and it is only moral if not practical for the city to take the same step." 

The group wants the Mayor to adopt a platform of strategies to more aggressively protect the city's children from lead-contaminated water by making healthy 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 as well as tax rebates for expenses related to the water emergency. In light of the findings in Arlington, Webb urges the Mayor to "issue the same alert for all city residents that has been issued for lead service line households. Do it and do it now."

Water for D.C. Kids advises the Mayor to acknowledge that anything other than maximum precautions for the poor and apartment dwellers could be deemed environmental racism, due to the as-yet unaddressed needs of the poor and apartment dwellers. Ella William, an Anacostia, Southeast Washington resident stated "I knew it. I knew it. I never believed them about the problem being only with houses because a lot of these apartment buildings are really old. As a grandmother with an eight month old grandson and 5 months-pregnant daughter living with me in my apartment, I am angry that we all could be getting poisoned but WASA won't give us water test kits and the city won't give us free filters. But they are giving the filters to people in houses. How can they do that?" 

Webb states that she is getting inquiries from tenants questioning WASA's right to withhold from tenants water testing kits and results. Webb states that tenants are being forced to trust the assurances of their landlords. "The city is doing an abysmal job of informing the public of its rights and getting out all of the pertinent information for assessing risk and allaying fears. Where is the public information campaign required by federal regulations when this level of lead contamination is reached?"

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 the city's underestimation of the potential risk group. and urges the city to spare the health of its children and limit the city's legal liability by immediately taking comprehensive health precautions based on the new evidence that the majority of D.C. residents could be affected by the lead corrosion caused by the city's chemically treated water.
  2. Families want a universal 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. The city must immediately make available to all residents who need it free NSF certified filters, free bottled water.
    The city needs to provide immediately water testing kits to all households in the District of Columbia and all faculties serving children, pregnant and nursing women as well as other vulnerable populations -- that includes those outside the previously designated risk categories: such as multi-unit apartment buildings.
  3. Families want a far-reaching public outreach effort to educate all families with pregnant women and children about services and programs, as well as their rights as tenants to information about the lead content of their water.
  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 identifying and replacing such lead components and plumbing.

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