October 5, 2004
MWRA Responds to Washington Post Allegations on Lead Testing
The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority refutes the allegations made by the Washington Post today regarding testing for lead in tap water.
The Post story is highly critical of the nation-wide lead in tap water testing program and targets major utilities around the country including Boston. The most serious allegation regarding the Boston area communities is that they have “thrown out” lead testing data and “manipulated test results.” “The allegations in the Post story are factually incorrect and deliberately misleading,” said MWRA Executive Director Frederick A. Laskey. “MWRA has fully complied with the federal testing regulations under the close scrutiny of state and federal regulators.”
The Post provides no evidence of the allegations.
440 volunteer homeowners in MWRA communities conduct regular first-flush morning samples and all test results are submitted to state and federal regulators. No test results have ever been “thrown out” as alleged by the Post. The Post also alleges that a large portion of the homes that communities were testing in 2003 were not considered “high-risk” homes as required by regulations. This is also factually incorrect. All the homes were high-risk as required by the regulations and three-quarters of them were in the very highest risk category. Every single community sampling plan was reviewed and approved by the Massachusetts DEP, the state drinking water regulators.
Lead is not present in MWRA water from the high-quality Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs, but can leach out of home plumbing (faucets, basement piping, and service lines connecting the home to street water lines) when water is not used for extended periods of time.
MWRA has worked aggressively to reduce lead levels at the tap. Since the first round of nation-wide testing of first-flush tap water in 1991-92, MWRA has implemented a very successful program of corrosion control adjustments to water chemistry to greatly reduce corrosion of home plumbing. Testing of worst-case homes with lead plumbing has shown a reduction of lead levels in first-flush samples of over 80 percent. Sampling in 2002 showed MWRA met the federal lead “action level” but slightly higher results in 2003 were just over the federal action level. Results from the Spring of 2004 were again below the action level.
MWRA spends over $5 million a year on testing, corrosion control chemicals and facilities, staffing, and public education. MWRA communities continue aggressive efforts to remove any remaining lead home connections. MWRA’s public education program was cited this year as a national model in a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. MWRA recommends that consumers choose “no-lead” faucets when they update kitchens and baths.
Further information on lead testing and public education can be found on MWRA’s website www.mwra.com.