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Clean Water Action
testimony before the City Council Committee on Public Works and the Environment on the DC Water and Sewer Authority and Its Lead Service Replacement Program
March 17, 2004




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Testimony from Clean Water Action
March 17, 2004

A Lead Emergency and a Leadership Crisis

Good afternoon, my name is Andrew Fellows, and I'm the Chesapeake Program Director for Clean Water Action, a national organization with over 700,000 members, and over 7,000 members in the District of Columbia. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

An important part of our mission is to work for safe and affordable drinking water. Obviously, to achieve that goal in the District of Columbia, we have a lot of work to do, and for that reason have helped to create the LEAD Coalition to engage in the political fight for healthy water. LEAD stands for Lead Emergency Action for the District - and we're calling for emergency action.

The District of Columbia needs to declare a state of emergency. The fact that has not yet been done has helped to confuse people as to whether there really is a problem. The Environmental Protection Agency needs to invoke Section 1431 and declare an Emergency Enforcement Action. Lead contamination is widespread, in many places at extremely high levels, and as we continue to find, is being underplayed.

It is going to be extremely costly to fix the problem that the federal government created. The federal government made the decision in 1890's to lay lead pipe to distribute water, the federal government (in the form of the Army Corps of Engineers who operated the Aqueduct that treats the District's water) made the decision to treat water with a chloramines, delivering a corrosive agent that likely caused leaching of lead into District residents drinking water. Finally, the Environmental Protection Agency has an unusually strong oversight role on the District's water, more so than every state except Wyoming. The federal government bears much of the responsibility for today's emergency crisis. Congress must pass a supplemental appropriation of $300 million as a down payment for full lead service line replacement and modernization of water treatment.

There is need for expanded water testing, blood lead screening, alternative source of potable water to homes with copper pipes, and multi-unit dwellings. We recently received information of testing at multi-unit dwellings from last year that greatly exceeded 15 ppb, and were conducted by Virginia Tech's Marc Edwards.

It is clear from past performance that there needs to be a Citizens Water Board, to involve citizens in the decision-making and oversight of the District's water. We and others suggested this in the mid- 90's during past crises. Today's emergency lead crisis proves the need. Thanks to the Council for the bill's introduction. Thank you for your time.

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