Washington, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today at a Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment hearing used her time to ask three questions of particular concern to District of Columbia residents – lead levels in D.C.’s water supply, ground water testing in the Spring Valley neighborhood, and flooding of the National Mall and D.C. neighborhoods.
Norton, who will be traveling to Flint, Michigan with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and a congressional delegation on March 4, asked what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which was chiefly responsible for D.C.’s lead-in-water crisis in the early 2000s, is currently doing to prevent any future lead contamination in D.C.’s water supply. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns and operates the Washington Aqueduct, which supplies all of D.C.’s drinking water. Lieutenant General Thomas Bostick, Chief of Engineers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, answered that the Army Corps tests for lead levels in water leaving D.C.’s two main aqueducts once per month. The Potomac River, the region’s water source, contains no lead, but some pipes in the region contain lead, and the Army Corps failed to add the correct anti-corrosive substance to D.C.’s water in the early 2000s. Bostick assured Norton that the Army Corps now adds orthophosphate, an approved anti-corrosive substance, to water flowing to D.C. to prevent lead leaching. Norton expressed skepticism about the Army Corps’ expertise as a water provider and asked if the D.C. region was the only municipality in the nation for which the Army Corps provides drinking water. Bostick responded that it was. Norton also asked if the Army Corps could do capital investment in its water infrastructure and learned that, unlike the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, which purchases approximately 75 percent of the water produced by the Washington Aqueduct and is the region’s main water provider, the Army Corps has no borrowing or bonding authority.
In a related water issue, Norton asked Bostick for an update on the Army Corps’ ongoing testing of ground water in Spring Valley, a D.C. neighborhood located on a site formerly used by the Army to test and develop chemical weapons during World War I. Norton was successful in keeping the Army Corps from digging a well to trace groundwater contamination in a neighborhood park. Instead, the Army Corps agreed to build the well in a nearby road. Bostick did not have information on the ongoing groundwater testing, but Norton asked him to provide a report within 30 days on what chemicals the Army Corps plans to test and what it expects to find.
Norton also got assurances from Assistant Secretary of the Army-Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy that a final report on the 17th Street Levee, designed to prevent flooding of the National Mall and Southwest neighborhoods from the Potomac River, will be completed and submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency this spring.