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Inspector General audit shows declining lead levels
June 20, 2005




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Monday, June 20, 2005
Contact: Michele Quander-Collins
(202) 787-2200

Independent Audit Shows Declining Lead Levels In District Drinking Water Samples Tested

Report Supports Integrity of DC WASA Testing Program

A recent report released by the District of Columbia Office of the Inspector General (OIG) states that tests for lead content in District tap water samples collected by an independent laboratory show a decline over levels reported in 2004 in testing by the DC Water and Sewer Authority (WASA).

“The audit disclosed that laboratory tests performed on the water samples returned by District residents indicate improvement when compared to results of prior WASA tests, “ Interim Inspector General Austin Anderson said in a cover letter issued with the final report June 10, 2005.

The OIG report is a response to a February 27, 2004 request by District of Columbia Council member Carol Schwartz, Chairman of the Council Committee on Public Works and the Environment, for an independent analysis of the levels of lead in District drinking water. The audit was requested in order to confirm WASA’s sampling and collection methodology and to corroborate WASA’s lead level test reports. The OIG engaged the CPA firm of Sakyi & Associates to perform an independent statistical analysis to determine whether lead levels in samples from District locations previously tested and reported by WASA were less, equal or greater than those reported by WASA.

“We’re extremely pleased with the Inspector General’s findings, as it validates the hard work that this agency and its partners have done to address this issue,” WASA General Manager Jerry N. Johnson said. “Moreover, this report affirms our recent announcements of declining lead levels, as well as the integrity of our test sampling process.”

Of the 871 residences selected for sampling by the OIG consultant, a total of 272 residents responded by submitting water samples. The OIG report concluded that the overall results were positive and encouraging:

  1. Only 11 residences had lead concentrations above the previous WASA results;
  2. 103 residences tested had lower results than those reported by WASA;
  3. 107 showed no or low lead content, similar to the results of prior WASA tests;
  4. Only 16 (6%) of the 272 residences had sample results that exceeded the EPA action level of 15 ppb. (This is significantly below the allowed 10% exceedance of the EPA action level.)

WASA made its staff available to discuss test results with District residents who participated in the OIG audit and requested additional information.

WASA purchases treated water wholesale from the Army Corps of Engineers Washington Aqueduct for distribution to District customers. The downward trend in lead levels has been attributed largely to the addition, by the Aqueduct, of orthophosphate in the treatment process to inhibit the corrosive action of water on pipes and plumbing fixtures that contain lead.

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