05 March 2008
WASA Discusses Changes to Lead Pipe Replacement at Woodridge Civic Association Meeting
Below is a detailed update provided by a neighbor, "Woodridge Laura", on WASA's presentation at last night's Woodridge Civic Association meeting.
WASA continues to explore changes to the Lead Service Replacement (LSR) program. In a joint meeting with the Woodridge Civic Association Tuesday night, WASA General Manager Jerry Johnson presented WASA's case:
- According to WASA's monitoring, DC water lead levels have remained under the EPA's "action alert level" of 15ppb since 2005, due to the addition of orthophosphate, a chemical that coats pipes and prevents lead leaching.
- Full LSR does improve lead levels, but but only a small portion of homeowners (2,128 out of 14,620 so far) have opted to pay for replacement on their property line. Other than cost, Johnson offered no opinions on why homeowner participation in full LSR has been so low.
- Partial LSR (replacing only the part on city property) has positive, but relatively minimal effects on lead level reduction.
For these reasons, WASA is considering a number of changes to the LSR program, which would be complete by 2016 if they continue at the current pace.
Changes could include replacing lines only when DDOT is also planning to repave roads, or replacing lines only when WASA is approaching a separate infrastructure project that involves existing lead pipes.
WASA will base its decision on the data they've already gathered about lead levels, homeowner participation in the LSR program, public comments gathered during community meetings like this one, and the relative importance of other projects that require funding from WASA.
Johnson said if the LSR schedule changed, the program would ramp down, not stop completely. Homeowners who have already agreed to a full service replacement with WASA should expect their contracts to be honored.
Residents asked about the safety of orthophosphate, and if lead lines are concentrated in any particular neighborhoods of the city. Johnson said there is no evidence of risks of orthophosphate, saying that phosphates have been routinely added to canned sodas for years, to prevent aluminum leaching. (And as everyone knows, soda is great for your health.) Johnson said lead pipes are relatively dispersed throughout DC, with slightly higher concentrations in older neighborhoods in Northwest and Capitol Hill, and the fewest amount in Southwest.
In response to recent news coverage about spikes in lead levels following partial LSR, Johnson maintains that WASA educates those homeowners who have partial replacement on the recommended schedule of flushing and cleaning faucet filters, through the signage WASA mails or leaves on residents' doors.
In comments following the presentation, Johnson said he was personally proposing a 8.5% increase in WASA's consumer rates to go into effect this October, and a 12% increase in 2009. He did not indicate when these increases could become official.
WASA's Board of Directors will hold a public hearing on the LSR program May 1, 2008 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Council of Governments office, 777 North Capitol Street NE.