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Barbara Favola, Chairman, Arlington County Board
US House of Representatives, Committee on Government Reform
Hearing on lead in DC WASA water: Public Confidence, Down the Drain: The Federal Role in Ensuring Safe Drinking Water in the District of Columbia
March 5, 2004




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Statement of the
Honorable Barbara Favola
Chairman, Arlington County Board

Mr. Chairman, I am Barbara Favola, Chairman of the Arlington County Board. I am grateful for the opportunity to submit testimony to your committee with regard to the issue of lead in water appearing in parts of the Washington metropolitan area, especially your committee's focus on the potential role of additives required by federal regulations.

We have key responsibilities to determine the extent of this problem, the level of risk it might create - especially for children in our community, what might have created the problem, and what steps we can take to correct it. At this time, Arlington County is aggressively testing schools, day care centers and water distribution points. Arlington is committed to gather the necessary information to understand this problem. We are equally committed to keeping our residents fully informed every step of the way.

We hope, through your help, Mr. Chairman, to determine whether changes in chemicals used by the federal government to protect water quality in the Potomac River might have inadvertently triggered this problem. The public also needs to better understand what an EPA standard actually means with respect to one's health risk. EPA must explain in more detail the science behind a designation of an "EPA actionable level" and other levels that indicate a health risk..

Even though Arlington and Falls Church share a common water supply with the District of Columbia supplied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the initial concerns about water/lead issues in the District centered entirely around lead service lines. Arlington has no known lead service lines.

Moreover, Arlington is and has been fully compliant with EPA drinking water rules and regulations, and has tested regularly with no results indicating a problem. As soon as it became known, however, that there might be a different problem, Arlington initiated testing. As soon as Arlington had even preliminary test results, the County notified this community. Our commitment is to be as open as possible.

As soon as we learned that the problem might be other than lead lines, Arlington began to collect water samples from a small number of homes. The recent water sampling is being conducted earlier than the required testing this summer, due to regional concerns about lead levels. Preliminary testing of eight homes in Arlington has found elevated levels of lead in water in five of them, according to test results. Arlington is conducting expanded testing of the homes found with higher lead levels, as well as more testing to an expanded sample pool. The results are preliminary. We have initiated additional testing, including at our schools.

Beyond that, it's far too early to say more.

This was entirely voluntary and aggressive on our part. We began the effort as soon as there was a question of water chemistry potentially reacting with lead solder.

Even though this sampling is far too small to be conclusive, Arlington is and will take every step to ensure careful and aggressive protection of public health.

As a result of our concerns, we have advised our community that children younger than 6 and pregnant women should avoid drinking water with elevated lead levels.

For any residents who are concerned about their water supply:

  • The Environmental Protection Agency advises flushing the faucet for 60-90 seconds if the home water supply has been idle for 6 hours or more.
  • Cook only with cold water.
  • If you also choose to use a filter, follow these three rules: 1 ] choose one designed for the specific filtration desired; 2] make sure the filter is approved by the National Sanitation Foundation, and 3] maintain the filter as directed.

These are simple precautions that the Arlington Public Health Department advises at this time.

Arlington's handling of the water quality issue is evidence of its commitment to public safety, just as this committee's leadership will be critical to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated effort.

Thank you.

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