The board of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority voted Thursday to reduce the number of lead pipes being replaced throughout the District in a move expected to save WASA nearly $197 million over the next seven years.

“We are providing clean and safe drinking water, and it’s time we reevaluated the pace of the program, given several years of experience and other water and sewer infrastructure needs throughout the District,” said General Manager Jerry N. Johnson in a press release.

“For the last three and a half years, following a change in water chemistry, District drinking water has met federal limits for lead and is in full compliance with all U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act regulations,” WASA said in the same release.

“WASA has replaced 15,780 lead service lines in public space since the program began,” Director of Public Affairs Michele Quander-Collins said. “There have been 2,429 private-side replacements.” In total, nearly half of the lead pipes have been replaced city-wide over the past four years, she said.

Under the new plan, WASA will still replace lead lines running between water mains and property lines with copper pipes when the lead lines are in need of replacement or repair.

If private customers choose to have the lead lines on their property replaced, they will be required to pay $2,000 for the substitution, and WASA will then replace the public portion of the line, which connects private properties to the water mains, free of charge.

Plans were announced in 2004 to replace over 35,000 public lead pipes throughout the District, at an estimated cost of over $400 million, when lead levels rose well above federal limits.

WASA officials now said that because lead levels have fallen, such a large-scale pipe replacement is unnecessary.

“In a cost-benefit and impact analysis of the [Lead Service Replacement] program, we have consulted experts from the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, The George Washington University Center for Public Health, as well as local health officials and the public,” Johnson said.

In a 2004 article, The Washington Post revealed that the lead levels in D.C.-area drinking water exceeded the maximum 15 parts per billion allowed by the EPA, and that the WASA had withheld this information for over a year. That same year, WASA introduced orthophosphate to the water supply to reduce corrosion, which has dramatically decreased lead levels in the water over the last four years.

According to EPA documents, lead levels had risen above 75 ppb in some areas in 2002. As a result, WASA was required to institute a lead-in-drinking-water public education program as well as replace all lead pipes at a rate of 7 percent of the pipes per year.

In 2007, WASA was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine for failing to comply with several of the EPA’s ordinances, including failing to take water samples, failing to monitor partially replaced pipes, and failing to issue appropriate public service announcements.

While WASA was not immediately able to say how many lead pipes exist in the Georgetown neighborhood, University Spokesperson Julie Bataille said that there are no lead pipes on Georgetown’s campus.

“I’ve checked and found that there are no lead pipes on campus,” she said. “We regularly test our water supply on campus and have not seen any issues related to lead, though we continue to monitor water supply regularly in order to be aware of any issues and take preventive steps should any be needed.”

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The board of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority voted Thursday to reduce the number of lead pipes being replaced throughout the District in a move expected to save WASA nearly $197 million over the next seven years.

“We are providing clean and safe drinking water, and it’s time we reevaluated the pace of the program, given several years of experience and other water and sewer infrastructure needs throughout the District,” said General Manager Jerry N. Johnson in a press release.

“For the last three and a half years, following a change in water chemistry, District drinking water has met federal limits for lead and is in full compliance with all U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act regulations,” WASA said in the same release.

“WASA has replaced 15,780 lead service lines in public space since the program began,” Director of Public Affairs Michele Quander-Collins said. “There have been 2,429 private-side replacements.” In total, nearly half of the lead pipes have been replaced city-wide over the past four years, she said.

Under the new plan, WASA will still replace lead lines running between water mains and property lines with copper pipes when the lead lines are in need of replacement or repair.

If private customers choose to have the lead lines on their property replaced, they will be required to pay $2,000 for the substitution, and WASA will then replace the public portion of the line, which connects private properties to the water mains, free of charge.

Plans were announced in 2004 to replace over 35,000 public lead pipes throughout the District, at an estimated cost of over $400 million, when lead levels rose well above federal limits.

WASA officials now said that because lead levels have fallen, such a large-scale pipe replacement is unnecessary.

“In a cost-benefit and impact analysis of the [Lead Service Replacement] program, we have consulted experts from the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, The George Washington University Center for Public Health, as well as local health officials and the public,” Johnson said.

In a 2004 article, The Washington Post revealed that the lead levels in D.C.-area drinking water exceeded the maximum 15 parts per billion allowed by the EPA, and that the WASA had withheld this information for over a year. That same year, WASA introduced orthophosphate to the water supply to reduce corrosion, which has dramatically decreased lead levels in the water over the last four years.

According to EPA documents, lead levels had risen above 75 ppb in some areas in 2002. As a result, WASA was required to institute a lead-in-drinking-water public education program as well as replace all lead pipes at a rate of 7 percent of the pipes per year.

In 2007, WASA was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine for failing to comply with several of the EPA’s ordinances, including failing to take water samples, failing to monitor partially replaced pipes, and failing to issue appropriate public service announcements.

While WASA was not immediately able to say how many lead pipes exist in the Georgetown neighborhood, University Spokesperson Julie Bataille said that there are no lead pipes on Georgetown’s campus.

“I’ve checked and found that there are no lead pipes on campus,” she said. “We regularly test our water supply on campus and have not seen any issues related to lead, though we continue to monitor water supply regularly in order to be aware of any issues and take preventive steps should any be needed.”

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.