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EPA, DC WASA agree to new safeguards for lead in drinking water

Release Date: 6/17/2004
Contact Information: Liz Ferry, 215-814-2909

Liz Ferry, 215-814-2909

PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) reached a consent agreement today that requires WASA to provide new safeguards for lead in drinking water. The agreement comes in the wake of an EPA audit that found multiple Lead and Copper Rule violations.

“This agreement demonstrates the continued commitment by EPA and WASA to uphold public health protection in the Safe Drinking Water Act,” said EPA Deputy Regional Administrator Thomas C. Voltaggio. “WASA has agreed to move forward with the necessary corrective actions in a timely fashion.”

The consent order is the result of a compliance audit over the past four months that included on-site review of records and detailed evaluation of thousands of pages of documents that were formally requested by EPA. During the audit, EPA found that WASA failed to comply with numerous lead sampling, public notification, and reporting requirements under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
The most serious violation cited in the consent order was WASA’s failure to report all the results of its tap water sampling program to EPA. Six tap water samples collected during the period of July 2000 to June 2001 were not reported to EPA as required. Had these been reported in 2001, the lead content of District of Columbia water would have exceeded EPA’s action level in 2001.

By withholding the six samples, WASA led EPA to believe for an entire year that lead levels in drinking water were within acceptable limits. One year later, in August 2002, WASA’s reported data showed that the EPA action level was exceeded, triggering remedies that included increased monitoring, more public education, and replacing lead service lines. These remedies began one year later than they would have if WASA had reported complete data in 2001.

Accurate reporting by WASA also would have triggered earlier efforts to correct corrosion problems in D.C. water. Corrosion control actions are only now being started by introducing orthophosphates into part of the D.C. drinking water system in order to inhibit lead corrosion.
The consent order cites several deficiencies in the implementation of the Lead and Copper Rule by WASA including:

• Failure to take the appropriate number of samples within the applicable monitoring period.
• Failure to conduct follow-up monitoring of partially replaced lead service lines.
• Failure to comply with requirements for public service announcements.
• Failure to use mandatory language in written education materials provided to customers.
• Failure to perform required activities following exceedance of the lead action level in the July 2000 to June 2001 monitoring period.
• Failure to report violations.
Corrective actions required of WASA under the order include updating the lead service line inventory and replacing more than 1,600 lead service lines that should have been replaced earlier if the 2001 data was complete. WASA must also improve its public education program and upgrade its database management system.