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WASA LAWSUIT

Lead in Water Harmed Sons, D.C. Man Claims

WASA General Manager Jerry Johnson has testified that the agency was repeating information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that residents' health had not been affected.
WASA General Manager Jerry Johnson has testified that the agency was repeating information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that residents' health had not been affected. (Bill O'Leary - Washington Post)

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By Keith L. Alexander and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Capitol Hill father of twin boys sued the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority yesterday, claiming the children's ongoing health problems can be tied to high concentrations of lead in drinking water.

John Parkhurst filed suit in D.C. Superior Court in a case that he hopes will become a class-action on behalf of others affected by elevated lead levels in the city's water from 2001 to 2004.

The suit seeks $200 million in damages.

The complaint states that Parkhurst's sons, now 8, were given food and formula as infants that were prepared with tap water.

It alleges that both boys showed evidence of lead poisoning at their 2-year-old checkup, and that they have experienced serious behavioral and learning difficulties.

Parkhurst, a psychologist, said he sought legal counsel in the wake of recent news reports that raised questions about a 2007 research paper that assured D.C. residents that there was no harm caused by the earlier elevated amounts of lead in the water.

The news accounts revealed that the paper's author was a paid consultant for WASA and had a contract stating that the utility had final approval of anything published about it.

The lawsuit accuses WASA officials of keeping the extent of the lead problems from the public. In addition to money, it seeks medical monitoring and other measures for children who experienced lead poisoning.

Parkhurst's attorney, Stefanie Roemer, said her firm, Sanford, Wittels & Heisler, was interested in speaking with D.C. residents who have children who were 6 and younger between 2001 and 2004, especially residents living in the areas of Capitol Hill, Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights.

In an e-mailed statement, WASA spokeswoman Michelle Quander-Collins said that her office had not seen the lawsuit, and added that more studies need to be completed to link lead in water to health and behavior concerns.

"We continue to consult with health experts and the scientific community to learn more, but even the experts disagree," she said. "It is important for researchers to determine the health impacts of exposure to lead in water, and we continue to support that effort."


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