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Government and People
Testimony for the Committee on Public Works and the
Given by Nancy Wilson, DC resident who lives on 1300th block of A Street SE (the first street
where lead-pipe replacement began on Capitol Hill)
March 17, 2004
Thank you Chair and Committee members. In my oral testimony I plan to highlight issues that are outlined in a detailed petition that is currently being circulated in my community for signature. I am providing the committee a draft of this petition for your information. The petition is for full replacement of our lead service lines from the water meter to our houses.
Which brings me to our first issue: We believe that WASA has not provided full disclosure about what is their responsibility to replace and what is the definition of public space. It is our belief that WASA is responsible for the lines in public space. The definition of public space, according to the DC Tax and Revenue, Real Property Tax Administration, is all property up to 18 inches from the front door. WASA has only replaced the line up to the water meter, leaving the remaining line, which, for the most part is public space. It is our belief that WASA cannot arbitrarily change the definition of public space by declaring they have made a policy decision only replace the pipes to the water meter. Please let me be clear that for whatever lines are the homeowner's responsibility, we are more than willing to assume the cost. We are not trying to "get out of' paying for our part of the pipe replacement; however, we feel we have been misled by WASA about what is indeed our financial responsibility.
The second issue I'd like to raise is about the poor and what I consider irresponsible communication from WASA. Let me first say that we have still not received our results back from the first test kit WASA left us. Until we know our results, we are working off the assumption that we have similar results as our neighbor, who got over 300 ppb.
Going back to the communication issue, the petition goes into explicit detail of examples of the lack of direct communication from WASA. In fact, most of the information I received about the pipe replacement was from my neighbor, Satu Webb, who diligently called WASA officials directly, only to get more vague, conflicting information. The most egregious communication issue I'd like to highlight involved the time after our pipe replacement. WASA provided us with post-replacement test kits that completely failed to mention that we should not cook or drink tap water under any circumstances until we received the results of the water test. To my knowledge, we have not received the post-replacement results. We are still using bottled water for cooking, drinking and cleaning my son's cups. Having worked in public relations in the past, I believe that WASA should have a representative on hand at the site daily to answer questions from the public. I also believe that generic fact sheets about lead do not go far in answering specific questions people may have about their particular issues.
The last issue involves cost and economics and the waste of tax-payers dollars. Among the rumors floating out there is that WASA may be paying contractors to come back to replace the rest of the pipe at a later date. While, for our street, this is the only option we have for having full replacement, it makes no economic sense to pay contractors to go in twice to replace pipes. I ask that the committee look into this mismanagement of tax payer dollars for future removals. It is my understanding that it not only inefficient and a waste of money, but that going in twice could result in higher lead levels due to chemical reactions with copper and the actual jarring of the pipes due to construction.
For my street, the 1300 block of A street SE, we would like a written, clear statement from WASA about the timeline for finishing total replacement of the pipes. Hopefully these issues can be avoided at future removal sites; however, our street would like to know if we can start drinking our water and when will our pipes be fully replaced.
Thank you for your time.
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