D.C. WASA Is Committed to Keeping the District's Water Safe

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By William M. Walker
Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Jan. 27 front-page story "High Lead Levels Found in D.C. Kids" raised renewed concerns about lead levels in D.C. water between 2001 and 2003. As the new chairman of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) and the father of a child born in 2002, I take this study and the quality of the District's water very seriously.

What people should know first and foremost is that D.C. drinking water is safe and meets or exceeds all federal safety standards.

The WASA board and management team are deeply concerned about public health and safety, particularly as it relates to the community's children. The agency's most important job is to provide clean, quality drinking water, and we view that job as a solemn trust.

WASA relies on federal regulatory agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, to set water standards, and it operates under all requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. It also relies on the D.C. Health Department and other independent organizations to provide health expertise and direction.

The report that was at the center of the Jan. 27 article disagrees with earlier reports from epidemiologists, including one by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The lead author of the latest study, conducted by researchers at Virginia Tech and Children's National Medical Center, is not an epidemiologist. At this point, we can't assess the scientific merit of the methodology used in the study, how much peer review it received and how valid its conclusions are.

However, the study makes claims that WASA takes very seriously. As a result, we have asked independent experts to review the study and explain the discrepancies in conclusions made in this study and earlier reports from the D.C. Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control.

I have just been confirmed as chairman of WASA and was not involved with the agency during the period covered by the study that The Post reported on. I can assure the public that WASA will provide them with a full accounting of what we find in reexamining the research on lead in the District's water.

Clearly, no one of any age in the area should ever be placed at risk of exposure to lead. But I would like WASA customers to know: Your water is safe to drink, and WASA is watching out for your health and well-being and that of your children. Please remember, they are our children, too.

-- William M. Walker


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