Wednesday, June 29, 2016

High lead levels force workers in Congress building to drink bottled water

Oliver Milman
Wednesday 29 June 2016

Concerns about dangerous lead in drinking water have reached Congress – quite literally. It’s been discovered that a key congressional office building has high lead levels in its water supply, with workers being provided with bottled water to consume instead.

A recent routine test found the elevated lead levels in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington DC, according to an email sent out by William Weidemeyer, the House office buildings superintendent.

According to Politico, Weidemeyer’s memo to lawmakers and their staff states that the lead levels are “slightly above the EPA standard”.

“Although the cause of the increase remains under investigation, in an abundance of caution all drinking water sources and office-provided water filtration units in the building will be turned off beginning at 10pm Tuesday, June 28, 2016,” the email reads.

The five-story Cannon House Office Building has provided office space for members of Congress since 1908. The building, which is connected to the Capitol via a tunnel, is undergoing a $750m renovation, which started in January last year.

Washington DC has had previous brushes with lead-in-water problems, with the city exposed as having lax testing practices 10 years ago. Subsequent reporting, including by the Guardian, has shown that lead levels in dozens of US cities have been downplayed by testing that can obscure the true amount of contamination.


A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council this week revealed that more than than 18 million Americans are served drinking water by providers that have violated federal laws concerning lead in water. Despite this, only 3% of water utilities have faced any penalty over these violations, which include the failure to properly test or treat water.


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