Drinking Water: Safeguarding the District of Columbia's Supplies and Applying Lessons Learned to Other Systems

GAO-04-974T Published: Jul 22, 2004. Publicly Released: Jul 22, 2004.
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Concerns have been raised about lead in District of Columbia drinking water and how those charged with ensuring the safety of this water have carried out their responsibilities. The 1991 Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) requires water systems to protect drinking water from lead by, among other things, chemically treating it to reduce its corrosiveness and by monitoring tap water samples for evidence of lead corrosion. If enough samples show corrosion, water systems officials are required to notify and educate the public on lead health risks and undertake additional efforts. The Washington Aqueduct, owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, treats and sells water to the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA), which delivers water to D.C. residents. EPA's Philadelphia Office is charged with overseeing these agencies. GAO is examining (1) the current structure and level of coordination among key government entities that implement the Safe Drinking Water Act's regulations for lead in the District of Columbia, (2) how other drinking water systems conducted public notification and outreach, (3) the availability of data necessary to determine which adult and child populations are at greatest risk of exposure to elevated lead levels, and what information WASA is gathering to help track their health, and (4) the state of research on the health effects of lead exposure. The testimony discusses preliminary results of GAO's work. GAO will report in full at a later date.

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