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Tom Voltaggio, Deputy Administrator, Region III, US Environmental Protection Agency,
Testimony to the Committee on Public Works and the Environment on the lead services program
April 1, 2004




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Written Testimony of
Tom Voltaggio
Deputy Administrator, Region III
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Before the
Public Works and Environment Committee
District of Columbia City Council

April 1, 2004

Good evening, Madame Chair and Members of the Committee, I am Tom Voltaggio, the Deputy Regional Administrator for Region III of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Thank you for the opportunity to appear this evening to update the Committee on the activities that have been undertaken in addressing the important issue of lead in the tap water of District of Columbia residents since the agency last appeared before the Committee two weeks ago. I am joined by Rick Rogers, the Chief of the Drinking Water Branch for Region III.

This evening I will update you on five key issues:

  1. Delivery of water filters;
  2. EPA's compliance audit of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority's (WASA) lead program;
  3. The ongoing process of resampling the tap water in District schools;
  4. The resampling of homes that received inaccurate sampling instructions; and 
  5. The progress of the Technical Expert Working Group (TEWG).

In addition, I would like to also respond to questions raised at the last hearing on the authority to oversee the drinking water program in the District, and the question of Federal funding to support the effort to address the lead issue.

Water Filters

WASA has committed to ensure delivery by April 10 of the NSF International-certified water filters and consumer instructions to occupants in the estimated 23,000 homes and businesses with lead service lines. Periodic replacement of the filters will also be ensured. EPA is carefully monitoring this activity.

Compliance Audit

Yesterday, the EPA sent two letters to WASA regarding our ongoing compliance audit of the lead program. The first letter is essentially a "show cause" letter. Based on an initial compliance audit, we have identified six areas where we believe that violations have occurred and we allow WASA to provide relevant information for our consideration, prior to commencing a more formal enforcement action as described below. That information is requested within 21 days.

The second letter is an information request letter. The purpose of this request is to obtain additional information to determine whether there have been other past violations. The information is due within 21 days.

Once EPA receives the requested information from either or both letters, we will officially determine whether there have been violations. If so, we have two options under Section 1414(a)(2) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

  1. We could issue an administrative order (AO) for compliance. If we choose to issue an AO, the statute does not allow us to assess a penalty unless the order is violated. If so, we could bring an administrative penalty action or refer the matter for a civil action.
  2. In lieu of issuing an AO, we could refer the matter to the Department of Justice (DOJ). DOJ could bring a civil action for both injunctive relief and/or penalty.

Moving forward, EPA has been working with WASA on their action plan to address lead in drinking water. Yesterday, we received a reply from WASA on their response to our comments of that plan. We are reviewing this reply, and will continue to work with WASA in the implementation of this plan. In addition, EPA has been meeting with community groups in the District to involve them in outreach efforts, placed staff in the District and expanded the Agency's Drinking Water Hotline to address District water issues. In cooperation with the District's Joint Unified Command, we have also proactively offered information to radio stations in the District and created a comprehensive web site to provide updates to District residents.

Resampling of District Schools

Questions have arisen about WASA's methods to sample tap water in District schools. WASA has begun the process to resample these schools. On Friday, March 26, 2004, staffs in the District schools were trained to undertake the sampling. Testing began over the weekend, and is expected to be completed by week's end. EPA approved the protocol that is being used. WASA and their contractors have been coordinating with EPA throughout the process.

Resampling of Homes

EPA approved final instructions, in both English and Spanish on Tuesday for resampling of homes that received inaccurate instructions. EPA continues to work with WASA on additional means of communication to other populations in the District. WASA will provide a sampling plan to EPA by Wednesday, April 7, 2004.

Technical Expert Working Group Update

Today, the TEWG reached its first major milestone of the Action Plan that was released two weeks ago. A subgroup of the TEWG has completed its Desktop Options Analysis and presented it to the full group. This analysis will undergo an independent peer review before it is finalized. The recommendation of the TEWG subgroup is to conduct a partial system test using orthophosphates at WASA's Fort Reno Pumping Station and thereafter the full-system test by feeding orthophosphates at the Dalecarlia and McMillan water treatment plants.

Oversight Authority of the Drinking Water Program in the District

Under the SDWA, the District of Columbia is included within the definition of "state" and thus would be eligible to be considered for primacy, provided the District could satisfy the criteria contained in 40 C.F.R. 142.10. Among those criteria, the District must demonstrate that it can compel compliance with the national primary drinking water regulations by all public water systems in the District, and that it can take appropriate enforcement actions to enjoin any threatened or continuing violations of the national primary drinking water regulations.

There are two public water suppliers in the District - the Washington Aqueduct and WASA. In 1977 and again in 1994 in communications with the District, EPA raised questions whether Section 602 (b) of the District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act of 1973 (the "Home Rule Act"), may limit the District's ability to adequately regulate the Washington Aqueduct.

EPA is unaware of any relevant changes to this provision of the Home Rule Act subsequent to 1994 that would resolve this question. In the event the District sought primacy, the District would need to establish that the Home Rule Act gives the District sufficient authority over the Washington Aqueduct to enforce the SDWA.

Federal Funding

As part of the EPA regular drinking water grants, EPA has made available $11.3 million to WASA this year. In discussions with EPA, WASA has decided that these funds should be used to address the lead issue. EPA continues to work with WASA to provide this funding in a timely manner. In addition, EPA will continue to provide technical and financial assistance that is made available under the Safe Drinking Water Act.


In closing, working closely with the District of Columbia, our public service partners and concerned citizens, we will continue to aggressively act to protect residents and resolve the lead problem. We are taking action to hasten the day when citizens of the District can once again be confident in the safety of their drinking water. 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify tonight, and we are pleased to answer any questions you may have. 

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