Feds May Take Over D.C. Water

D.C. Handling Of Lead Issue Blasted on Hill

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.”


James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steven says:

    Ya gotta luv a bureaucrat named “Grumbles”.

  2. John A. Kalb says:

    There’ve been rumors flying in Arlington that we also have lead issues, though I suspect it’s mostly a marketing ploy from Whole Foods and Harris Teeter to get all the yuppies to buy more bottled water. It just doesn’t seem like this side of the Potomac is that dysfunctional.

    As for DC, I’m in favor of having the entire place go back under federal control. They don’t deserve self-rule, let alone statehood. It seems like the black leaders in the city have a corrupt bargain with the rich people in Northwest where Georgetown gets new sidewalks every week and extra police coverage in exchange for letting an utterly incompetent and corrupt bureaucracy stay in power. It’s really sad, and were I a black person living in Anacostia right now, I’d be extremely angry at my “leaders” for selling me out.

  3. Bithead says:

    Hmmm. So let’s see if I’m missing anything, here.

    1: Lead in the water in the DC area.

    2: Lead, among other things, causes irritability, lethargy, and brain damage.

    3:Democrats predominate in DC’s local politics.

    One could ask as a matter of logic, if the third point was the result of the first two.