THE REGION

Storms Knock Out Power to Thousands

Gusting winds and thunderstorms toppled trees and power lines last night in suburban Maryland, resulting in power outages for thousands of homeowners.

More than 16,000 customers in Anne Arundel County, 2,500 in the Prince George's County areas of Capitol Heights and District Heights and 400 customers in Howard County lost power, authorities said.

D.C., N.Va. Water to Be Treated for Lead

A chemical intended to prevent lead from leaching into drinking water will be added to the tap water supplies of a million customers in the District and Northern Virginia beginning Aug. 23, Environmental Protection Agency officials said yesterday.

The chemical, phosphoric acid, has been used on a trial basis since June 1 in a section of upper Northwest Washington, with the aim of reducing elevated lead levels in the drinking water of thousands of D.C. homes.

EPA officials said no problems have occurred during the trial period, but that it could take months for the chemical, widely used in water plants nationwide, to decrease the lead in tap water.

The chemical will be added at two Army Corps of Engineers treatment plants that serve water systems in the District, Arlington and Falls Church. Several public meetings will be scheduled for this month to answer residents' questions about the chemical treatment, EPA officials said.

Pedestrians Appeal on Redskins Road

Football fans angered by a rule that blocks pedestrian access along public roads to FedEx Field appealed the policy yesterday to the Prince George's County Board of Appeals, an attorney for the fans said.

The pedestrian policy was reauthorized in June by the county Department of Public Works and Transportation, which cited public safety concerns. The rule prevents pedestrians from walking on Redskins Road on the day of any event at FedEx Field.

The road was opened briefly during the past NFL season after a Circuit Court judge said the policy had been made without public notice. A public hearing was held in May to comply with the law before the policy was reinstated.

The attorney for the fans, J.P. Szymkowicz, has argued that the county must find the "least restrictive means" to protect pedestrians from being hit by cars, which he has said could be done by installing fencing or adding police rather than blocking public roads.

Szymkowicz said the appeal would not affect the policy prior to the Redskins' first home game of the preseason, Aug. 14 against the Carolina Panthers.

MARYLAND

State Pension Fund Improves Ranking

The Maryland state pension fund continues to strengthen, ranking in the top half of comparable public retirement funds for fiscal 2004, according to a national survey.

The 16 percent return on its investment portfolio -- compared with less than a 4 percent return the previous year -- is an increase of $3.4 billion, pushing the fund to $30.1 billion. Those results meant a greatly improved showing in the Trust Universe Comparison Service, which evaluates public pension funds with assets of more than $1 billion.

The retirement agency announced the survey ranking yesterday in a statement. The system serves more than 275,000 teachers, police officers and government workers.

Red Cross Warns of Low Blood Supplies

Blood supplies are running dangerously low in Maryland, with donations of some blood types dipping below one-day's need, Red Cross officials said yesterday.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) joined blood donors and recipients in calling for new donors during summer. "We tend to only focus when the need is relevant to us or our family," Ehrlich said.

THE DISTRICT

Man Arrested in Fatal Shooting in NE

A Maryland man has been arrested in the fatal shooting last month of an 18-year-old man in a stolen car, police said yesterday.

Police arrested Antonio Johnson on Monday at his home in the 5100 block of Southern Avenue in Capitol Heights, authorities said. Johnson, 21, is being held on first-degree murder charges in the death July 20 of Joshua N. Arrington.

Arrington was shot to death in Northeast as he sat in the driver's seat of a government car stolen from the driveway of a Secret Service agent.

VIRGINIA

Moussaoui Guard's Phone Call Probed

The Alexandria sheriff's office is investigating whether a deputy guarding terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui held a cell phone so a friend of the deputy's could hear Moussaoui yelling in the background.

A statement released by the sheriff's office yesterday said the investigation began Tuesday in response to allegations that the deputy allowed Moussaoui to use the phone to make calls from the city jail. Although the investigation is ongoing, the statement said, officials have determined that Moussaoui did not use the phone.

What apparently happened, law enforcement sources said, is that the deputy was making a personal call and held up the phone. Moussaoui is charged in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Fairfax Courthouse Expansion Launched

Politicians, judges and lawyers gathered at the Fairfax County courthouse yesterday morning to plunge ceremonial golden shovels into the ground and launch a $115.7 million expansion.

The expansion, which is scheduled to take four years, will add Circuit and General District courtrooms and incorporate the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.

"We don't want to disrupt traffic, disrupt lives, hurt the District of Columbia or the economy. However, when you weigh everything, you have to come down on the side of life and safety."

-- U.S. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms William H. Pickle, on road closures and other security measures taken on Capitol Hill after the nation's terror

alert was elevated on Sunday to Code Orange, the second-highest level. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers D'Vera Cohn, Allan Lengel, Susan Levine, Joshua Partlow, Jerry Markon, Tom Jackman and Del Quinton Wilber and the Associated Press.