Feds May Take Over D.C. Water
Federal officials yesterday described the levels of lead contamination in the District’s drinking water as the worst seen by regulators and threatened to step in if local officials do not take immediate steps to protect the public.
The assessment from two senior officials with the Environmental Protection Agency, delivered before the House Committee on Government Reform, represents the most direct response by the federal government in the five weeks since the public learned that thousands of households exceeded the federal lead limit last summer.
The testimony yesterday included dire assessments from experts who warned that immediate action must be taken to protect the public as well as sharp criticism of the EPA and the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority.
The federal government’s aggressive posture on Capitol Hill represents a sudden shift in the response to the lead contamination, which was played down initially by WASA and the EPA. The federal agency in February described WASA’s actions as following the letter of the law, but yesterday it said the utility may have violated rules by not properly informing the public of the threat to the water supply.
Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA’s acting assistant administrator for water, was pressed by Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) to name a place where lead levels have registered as high as in Washington. “I don’t know of any situation like this in the country, Grumbles said, adding, “Staff tell me there is more lead in EPA Superfund sites.”