Washington, D.C. – The minority members of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee today called for a hearing to examine lead contamination in the drinking water of District of Columbia residents. The EPW Committee has jurisdiction over the Safe Drinking Water Act and oversight responsibilities for the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords, I – Vt., the ranking member of the EPW Committee, said, "The residents of Washington deserve to get answers from federal and local officials on the causes of the contamination and why residents were not adequately notified. Safe drinking water is a right, not a privilege." The nine minority members of EPW Committee made the hearing request in a letter to Committee Chairman James Inhofe, R–Ok. The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., Max Baucus, D-Mont., Harry Reid, D-Nev., Bob Graham, D-Fla., Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Con., Barbara Boxer, D-Cal., Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY and Ron Wyden D-Ore. A copy of the letter is below. ---------------------------------- February 26, 2004 The Honorable James Inhofe Chairman Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works 410 Dirksen Building Washington, DC 20510 Dear Chairman Inhofe: We are writing to you to request a hearing before the Environment and Public Works Committee regarding lead contamination in portions of the Washington, D.C. drinking water system. In the last several years, testing has shown that significant numbers of homes in the District of Columbia have lead levels that exceed the 15 parts per billion limit established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in some cases by excessive amounts. Washington, D.C. water is managed by the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) and supplied by the Washington Aqueduct, operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. There are significant questions regarding the cause of the lead contamination, the actions taken by the District of Columbia to reduce the contamination and to inform the public, the role of the EPA, and the ongoing public health impacts. As the Committee with oversight responsibilities for the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers as well as the Safe Drinking Water Act, we believe we must take this contamination incident seriously and evaluate the role of each responsible party to determine if any Congressional action is warranted. Lead exposure has significant health effects, particularly for children who retain about sixty-eight percent of the lead that enters their body. Children exposed to lead experience effects such as low birth weight, growth retardation, mental retardation, learning disabilities, muscle cramps, stomach cramps, anemia, and kidney and brain damage. Lead is also particularly harmful during pregnancy, impacting the unborn child as well as causing miscarriages and stillbirths. It is of great concern to us that potentially hundreds of people were exposed to lead-contaminated drinking water for what may have been an extended period of time. We ask you to hold a full Committee hearing on this matter as quickly as possible. Sincerely,