WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amid a published report that cities across the nation have violated federal drinking water laws, U.S. Sens. Jim Jeffords, I –Vt., and Paul Sarbanes, D – Md., today called for stronger safe drinking water regulations and enforcement. The Washington Post examined 65 of the 3,000 largest utilities and found cities such as Philadelphia, Boston, New York City, Providence, R.I., and Portland, Ore., are “manipulating the results of tests used to detect lead in water, violating federal law and putting millions of Americans at risk.” The Post said its analysis of EPA data identified 274 water systems, serving 11.5 million people, that had reported unsafe lead levels since 2000. In a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Mike Leavitt, the Senators wrote, “Clearly, it is time for the federal government to take the recent threats to our public water systems seriously and impose tougher standards and requirements to ensure the public health.” In May Jeffords and Sarbanes introduced the “Lead-Free Drinking Water Act of 2004,” to place new responsibilities on the Environmental Protection Agency and public water systems nationwide to ensure that our nation’s public health is not compromised by lead in drinking water. Their bill requires the EPA to revise the national primary drinking water regulations for lead in drinking water to ensure protection of vulnerable populations such as infants, children, pregnant women, and breast-feeding mothers; requires better notification for residents when a water system has high lead levels; requires increased water testing and lead remediation in schools and day-care centers nationwide; provides more federal funding to upgrade water distribution systems; and bans leaded plumbing fixtures and components. The text of the Sarbanes/Jeffords letter is attached below. October 5, 2004 Administrator Leavitt
Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20460 Dear Administrator Leavitt: We are writing to you regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s implementation, oversight, and enforcement of the Lead and Copper Rule and your ongoing review of the drinking water regulations pertaining to lead. Earlier this year it was first reported that lead levels in the D.C. public water system were significantly higher than federal guidelines, and had been so for more than two years. Today, the Washington Post reported that data showed cities throughout the nation have avoided the requirements of the Lead and Copper Rule by manipulating the sampling and testing process. Clearly, it is time for the federal government to take the recent threats to our public water systems seriously and impose tougher standards and requirements to ensure the public health. Lead is a serious health threat to children and pregnant women. It is particularly dangerous for children. Children exposed to lead can experience low birth weight, growth retardation, mental retardation, learning disabilities, and other effects. It is also particularly harmful during pregnancy. On April 7, we introduced the Lead-Free Drinking Water Act of 2004, S. 2733, which seeks to strengthen the federal standards for lead in drinking water to protect public health. Our colleagues in the House, Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC) and Congressman Waxman (D-CA) introduced the House companion bill, H.R. 4268. This legislation used the Washington, D.C. lead experience as a blueprint for improvements that should be made to the nationwide regulations. This bill would provide funding and requirements for replacing lead pipes, it would close loopholes in the existing regulations, it would require stronger rules for public notice, it would require the removal of lead from our schools, and it would revise the definition of “lead-free.” On May 21, 2004, the Agency testified before the House Government Reform Committee that the “Lead-Free Drinking Water Act of 2004” is “premature at this time.” However, there are several weaknesses highlighted by the data analysis presented by the Washington Post today, and incorporated by EPA in the compliance order for the Washington Aqueduct and Sanitation Authority (WASA) which suggest many provisions of the legislation are sorely needed. For example, the Washington Post article identifies manipulation of test results by utilities during the test site selection process, with inappropriate elimination of sites, with sample invalidation, and with changes in the numbers of homes tested. The Lead-Free Drinking Water Act of 2004 requires that the EPA substantially revise the monitoring requirements of the Lead and Copper Rule to require more frequent monitoring, to ensure that the monitoring is statistically-relevant and fully representative of all types of residential dwellings and commercial establishments, and to enhance frequency and scope of monitoring when water chemistry is changed. In addition, to improve enforcement and eliminate fraud with the reporting of test results, the Act requires that all lead test results be submitted electronically directly to the Administrator or State or local agency. Please explain why the Agency opposes improvements to the sampling methodology for lead in drinking water proposed by the Lead-Free Drinking Water Act of 2004. The Washington Post article also states that that in spring of 2004, EPA regulators identified a series of loopholes in the regulations that weaken protections against lead in drinking water. They included: nothing requires utilities to notify individual homeowners that their water has high lead, and the regulation does not allow the same stiff sanctions for high lead that it does for other contaminants such as bacteria. The Lead-Free Drinking Water Act of 2004 would require this type of notification for homeowners and would require the Agency to re-evaluate the regulatory structure for lead in drinking water and establish a maximum contaminant load or a treatment technique that is more protective of human health than current standards. Please explain why the Agency testified that the Lead-Free Drinking Water Act of 2004 was “premature” when Agency regulators had identified the exact weaknesses in the current EPA regulations that the bill will eliminate. In addition, in June 2004, the Agency issued a compliance order with WASA, which actually requires many things that are not required by current regulations, but are required by the legislation. We are pleased that the Agency believes these ideas will improve the public health of Washington, D.C., but we are puzzled why the Agency does not believe the entire nation should receive the health benefits from these improvements which will reduce the public’s exposure to lead in drinking water. For example, the EPA compliance order requires WASA to take several corrective actions including: n requires plans for updating its lead service line inventory and reporting to EPA n requires WASA to strongly encourage full replacement of lead service lines with owners paying for their portion, including submission of a plan to EPA for encouraging homeowners to agree to full replacement n prohibits the use of the “test out” procedure to count lead service lines as replaced even if they are not n requires WASA to develop and submit a public education plan including public health issues, steps to reduce health risks, and take steps to address EPA recommendations on effectiveness of prior public education n requires WASA to document to EPA that they have provided water filters to all customers suspected or known to have lead contamination at no charge as well as those with “unknown” service line materials n requires WASA to submit detailed sampling plans to EPA. Each of these items is required by the Jeffords-Sarbanes/Norton-Waxman Lead-Free Drinking Water Act of 2004. Please explain why the Agency testified that these actions are “premature” when the Agency is requiring that WASA perform these same actions. We understand that the EPA is conducting an extensive review of the Lead and Copper Rule to determine if any changes to the current regulations are warranted. We urge you to revise the Lead and Copper rule to incorporate the provisions of the Lead-Free Drinking Water Act of 2004. Some of the parents whose children were affected by the Washington, D.C. lead incident wrote to me saying, “It is our hope that other mothers in this country will not have to experience the frustration, anger, and fear that we have during the many months that this crisis has dragged without resolution.” Despite our best efforts, today and tomorrow, mothers around the country will embark on this same experience as they learn more about the lead content of their city’s drinking water. Safe drinking water is not a privilege; it is a right. We urge you to re-evaluate your testimony on the Lead-Free Drinking Water Act of 2004 and endorse this legislation so that we can move forward quickly. We urge you to quickly revise the Lead and Copper rule to incorporate the regulatory elements of this legislation. These actions will help restore public confidence is a system that is broken and ensure that lead in our water is a thing of our past. Sincerely, Senator Jim Jeffords

Senator Paul Sarbanes