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Posted at 06:57 AM ET, 07/01/2008

WASA: Reduce Partial Pipe Replacement

The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority general manager recommended yesterday that WASA scale back its lead-pipe replacement program, but a board committee deferred judgment, saying it needed time to review the proposals.

The Committee on Drinking Water Quality ran out of time before it had a chance to review WASA general manager Jerry N. Johnson's recommendations that the authority slow its program of partial lead pipe replacements. WASA has spent recent years replacing the city-owned portion of the pipe that connects a home to the water main with safer copper. The privately owned part of the lead pipe is left in place.

The partial-replacement process has been criticized by Virginia Tech professor and water expert Marc Edwards, among others. Edwards, a 2007 MacArthur Fellow, produced a report in February that found that the process could make lead levels worse by disturbing lead sediment and creating dust when the pipe is cut.

Johnson's recommendations would continue the program of full-pipe replacement, in which a property owner pays for replacing his or her part of the line, which can be several thousand dollars.

He also recommended that lead service lines be removed as part of any real estate property transfer and that daycare centers have non-lead pipes.

Johnson pressed for a quick evaluation of his recommendations for WASA budget planning.

"I think that we have to make a decision and move forward as an organization," Johnson said. "I think we're just dragging this out."

But some committee members wanted more time.

"These materials are five to six inches thick in total," committee member and head of the District Department of Environment George S. Hawkins said after the meeting. "We need to take the time that that level of analysis warrants."

Hawkins also said plans were moving forward for an in-depth study of lead levels. The study would last "as long as a year," he said, and take samples during the summer and winter, when lead levels are highest. Advocacy groups such as Parents for Nontoxic Alternatives and the Alliance for Healthy Homes have worried that previous studies failed to test lead during peak times.

The full WASA board has its monthly meeting Thursday.

Michael Birnbaum

By Marcia Davis  |  06:57 AM ET, 07/01/2008

Categories:  City Life

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