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“DC Water’s required lead testing program mark the lowest lead levels measured in more than a decade”

by Prince Of Petworth July 20, 2016 at 10:50 am 17 Comments

good water
Photo by PoPville flickr user District Shots

In happier water news:

“Recent results from DC Water’s required lead testing program mark the lowest lead levels measured in more than a decade. Levels have continued to decline since 2004, when the water treatment process began including a corrosion control additive to reduce lead release in water. Since 2003, DC Water has replaced more than 20,000 lead service pipes on public property, representing the removal of nearly 118 miles of lead pipes that connect public water mains to household plumbing. DC Water replaces lead service pipes during water main upgrades or when customers choose to replace their portion of the service pipe on private property. DC Water reminds customers that lead sources are different in each property and urges residents to eliminate lead pipes and plumbing materials in their homes.

Drinking water is lead-free when it leaves the treatment plant and travels through the distribution system, but lead can enter the water when it flows through household lead service pipes or plumbing fixtures that contain lead.

“DC Water’s top priority is to provide clean, safe drinking water to our customers,” commented Chief Executive Officer and General Manager George S. Hawkins. “The test results show that efforts to control corrosion through treatment are working. At the same time, we must remain vigilant until all sources of lead are removed. To that end, we provide free lead test kits to help customers identify sources of lead in their homes, and help these customers learn how to minimize their lead exposure.”

When samples have elevated levels of lead, DC Water offers a plumbing inspection and more extensive testing at no charge. To order a free lead test kit, customers can contact the Drinking Water Division at 202-612-3440 or email [email protected]

In addition to the voluntary lead testing program, DC Water tests more than 100 homes across the city every 6 months. This testing is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lead and Copper Rule and results show that measured concentrations have reached historically low levels.

The 90th percentile was 2 parts per billion (ppb) for the most recent reporting period, which means that at least 90 percent of the homes that DC Water tested for lead were 2 ppb or less. All samples were below the EPA’s action level of 15 ppb. For more information about DC Water’s voluntary and required lead testing programs, visit www.dcwater.com/lead.

Important Customer Information

DC Water’s required lead monitoring program only measures the lead level in a fraction of District households, so it is important that customers determine if there are any sources of lead in their homes. For tips on removing lead sources, download the DC Water brochure, Tips to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water. Customers can also use DC Water’s new interactive map at dcwater.com/servicelines to see if their home has lead service lines.

If you have any questions about lead in drinking water, please contact the Drinking Water Division at 202-612-3440 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). All other questions or suggestions should be directed to DC Water Customer Service at 202-354-3600 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or the 24-Hour Command Center at 202-612-3400. Information is also available at www.dcwater.com/lead/minimizing.cfm.”

  • Anon

    This is definitely good news, but what the announcement fails to state clearly is that there is NO safe level of lead in drinking water. Test your water with their free service and if you have kids, do what you can to reduce the levels to 0 ppb. The American Academy of Pediatrics just updated their policy on lead in drinking water and clearly state there is no safe level. EPA’s standard is out of date and under review…. 15 ppb is not a health standard and is too high to protect children. And if you have kids in DC schools, they are going to filter all drinking water sources in schools, rec centers and libraries, but full implementation won’t happen until January 2017. Until then, they could be exposed if the water fountain or sink doesn’t have a filter.

    More info on DC action here: http://www.fox5dc.com/news/164026359-story
    APP findings here: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/1/e20161493

    • PPB

      We just tested with DC water when we moved into our new house in Petworth. First draw was .8 ppb and second draw came back at 1 ppb. Can you give any insight as to what this really means? All I can find is that 15ppb is dangerous and ‘requires action’. I’m glad we’re not anywhere near there but still wondering if 1ppb is cause for concern? We have a filter on our kitchen tap for drinking but we use the regular tap water for everything else. Any insight appreciated!!

      • textdoc

        Are you using the filtered water for cooking too?
        A very important question… does your filter meet the ANSI/NSF 53 standard? If it does, that should cover _all_ lead, but if it doesn’t, it might cover only one kind of lead. (I can’t remember which.)
        Are there any children or pregnant women in the house, or just adults? Any pets?
        FWIW, I thought I was “OK” with results of 5 ppb and 10 ppb… until I heard 5 years later that no level can be considered “safe” (at least for children — I am less clear on whether this applies to adults). It sounds like I am _probably_ OK, as an adult… but I worry about the effect on my 9-pound cat. So I’m planning to get a faucet-based filter very soon.

        • textdoc

          See also these threads:
          To clarify, when I said “I can’t remember which,” I meant that I couldn’t remember which type of lead was filtered out by ANSI/NSF 53 filters, but not by other filters.
          A poster said in the first of those two threads: “Brita pitcher filters used to be certified to remove lead, but the standard changed to include lead particles (which they don’t remove) as well as soluble lead. The faucet mounted filters are still certified as they remove both.”

          • PPB

            Thank you @textdoc and @Anon- very useful information. I will pull up the paperwork on our filter and check the certification. I am not using filtered water for cooking currently but it sounds like I should start. No human babies in the house just yet but we plan to try soon hence the concern. We do have a dog. Short term we may need to look into a filter over the entire tap (instead of the separate spout). Long term a dig-out may be in order. Joys of home ownership :)

        • saf

          Our house had VERY high (300+) lead levels before we had the supply line replaced. Health Department tested our blood and we were clean. I had the cats tested and they were fine too.

          Also, forget the faucet based filters. Get a good under-counter one. We really like our multi-pure. Not cheap, but VERY durable.

      • Anon

        First, I’m no lead expert… just an active mom on the issue and I have a science background so it’s been interesting to learn. The AAP stated that the new action level should be 1ppb, meaning if your water readings come back with 1ppb or more, you should filter your water. That’s what an action level is.

        Lead leaches slowly into water, but depending on the pipes, it can also flake off and cause massive exposure in one glass of water. At the DC Council hearing, I listened to a lead expert who worked the Flint crisis talk about how it’s literally russian roulette if you don’t have a filter. And yes, she was speaking about exposure of children in DC schools. Based on that, I don’t let my kids drink water outside my home unless I know it’s filtered… I know, weird.

        Drinking water and water used for cooking should be filtered to reduce exposure. The AAP representative at the hearing said that exposure of lead through the skin is not a cause for concern in water, so bathing is not an issue.

        As the other poster mentions, certification by ANSI/NSF 53 is important. It’s worth checking the filter you have to see if it meets that standard.

        This is all important if you are pregnant, have kids, or are planning to become pregnant in the future. The last one people often forget; however, one of the AAP recommendations was to work with women’s health providers to screen risks for women in reproductive years to see if blood lead level testing is warranted. Lead mimics calcium in your blood and is stored in bones during exposure. When you are pregnant, calcium and lead are removed from your bones and can expose your fetus.

        And finally, all of this shouldn’t minimize the other real risks of lead exposure… most notable in DC are lead paint in homes and lead in soils. If you have an old house or grow a garden, it’s worth finding out your total exposure profile.

    • lG

      So kids under the age of 2 absorb about half of the lead they drink. That eventually decreases to about 10 percent once they reach adult age.
      No level is good for Moms or babies, but you’ll never really know if there was an affect because it makes the child less intelligent.

  • textdoc

    This reminds me… does anyone have a faucet-mount ANSI/NSF 53-certified filter that they recommend? I went to Amazon and found the options somewhat overwhelming. (I didn’t see a good way to remove “under-sink” filters and countertop filters from the search results.)

    • Herewegoagain

      I think my Aquasana filters are great. They have various configuration options. Lead is bad, but the chloramine by products scare me. Aquasana gets them all.

    • If you get one don’t forget to remove in winter if you leave home. They can freeze much easier than your pipes and burst, causing water to go awry.

      • textdoc

        Thanks for the tip! Will make a mental note of it.


    Has anyone had their lead lines replaced through the voluntary program by DC water? Every time I call the office they give me a different answer. First they said yes no problem all I have to do is schedule it, the next time (calling to try to get scheduled) they told me they only do it for homeowners when they are working on the street line. Soooo can I get it replaced even if they aren’t already working on the street line?


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