The Corner Forum
Saturday, Feb. 21, 2004
Issue #62

Call WASA for Lead-Testing Kit

By Lisa Olson, 1214 E St. NE

Everyone in the neighborhood should have received a letter from WASA regarding the lead issue. I received mine a day ago.

It is imperative that people request to have their water tested by WASA if they suspect they have lead pipes. First you can call the WASA hotline 787-2732 to see if your service pipes are lead (although they don't always have the answer because their database is not complete and much of the information is transcribed from handwritten papers, which are not all reliable). If there is a question as to whether or not your pipes are lead, I would assume they are, to be on the safe side.

Next, call the same number to request a test. They will FedEx the test kit to you with instructions. Complete the test and call them to pick up the water samples. The test kit should arrive within a few days and results should arrive within 30 days.

The other bit of information that they discussed at a panel discussion on Tuesday relates to drinking water for those who do have high lead levels or those who suspect they might. You should not consume water from your faucet first thing in the morning. You should wait until showers have been taken, toilets flushed, until a large quantity of water has run through your pipes (a significant amount of water, not just running the faucet for two or three minutes) and then you should gather some water in containers, filter it if you choose to (I do!) and only use that water for consumption. This would include drinking, cooking, etc.

They are currently devising an additional test to look at the water from this "third flush" as they call it. The tests being distributed now include two bottles to collect samples from two flushes. The first flush collects water that has been sitting in the pipes in your house. The second flush is designed to collect water that is coming from the service main line.

This new test will also include the third flush, because they have seen from a very limited test sample (of about six homes) that the amount of lead dramatically decreases with this third flush. This test is not yet available and will only be distributed for those who have lead levels over 300 parts per billion (ppb). Remember the EPA's maximum limit for lead in the water in residences is 15 ppb.

If you have not done so already, I cannot stress enough that you should contact WASA and request to have a test kit sent to you. This is the only way WASA will be able to gather information about pipes in our neighborhood, which would allow us to request to be on a priority list for lead pipe replacement!

I urge everyone in our Corner Forum area to contact WASA to check the status of their water main pipe, to request a test kit and to take whatever steps they deem necessary to protect themselves and their children.

I included this information in a previous article, but you can get your children's lead level tested at the Office of Lead Poisoning (they can be reached at 535-2690, 535-2625, or 535-1911). They are even willing to come to your home or school to perform the test.

It is recommended in D.C. for children under the age of 6 to get a lead test every year until their 6th birthday. They do not test babies under 6 months old, because they must draw blood from a vein and not use a finger stick. In this case, the mother may want to get tested to see if her levels are high.

D.C. is particularly worried about the effects of lead paint in children, given the abundance of older homes in the city and the amount of lead paint and lead dust that exists besides the current water issue. Speaking out to WASA, their board of directors and the City Council is necessary to get reactions. §