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Please note that nothing in this website, including in the text below, is intended to serve as legal advice or counsel.  For information on your rights as a tenant please contact the D.C. Legal Aid Society at (202)628-1161.
Unanswered Questions regarding lead contaminated water and apartment buildings.

What about apartment buildings?  Should tenants trust landlord reassurances about the water?  Is WASA refusing to provide test results and kits to individual tenants of multi-unit dwellings?

Your landlord may assert that lead levels in the water of your apartment building.  You may want to know how to view this.

To  avoid unnecessarily alarming citizens during this water safety crisis, we point out the following:  if your landlord has verifiable evidence such as lead test results rendered  by a reputable lab and carried out according to appropriate protocol, possibly the landlord's reassurances about the safety or your water can be trusted.

If the landlord's reassurances are based upon WASA and Department of Health theories that only old homes are affected, I am not so sure.  Lead levels in old homes appear to be worse, and are the focus of the crisis because old homes have the biggest, most obvious sources of lead -- the public water mains servicing most of them are made of lead.

However, if something is causing the lead in public lead service pipes to leach, the same thing could be causing lead to leach from the lead plumbing throughout our homes or apartments and within our private property lines. The same thing could be causing lead to leach from copper pipes with lead solder or lead fixtures in any home or apartment building, not just the old homes.  So, theoretically, I believe that  it is possible (just as it was in 8 DC public schools) for the apartment buildings to have high lead levels in their water.  The DCPS example shows that this problem is not just confined to old homes.

In addition, where there is no credible evidence backing landlord claims that water is safe, public health precautions should be taken on behalf of those in your building --- especially for pregnant women and children under 6 years old.  The landlord probably is using poor judgment to go around making claims without some test results from the city or WASA-issued reassurances.  It would probably allay you and your neighbors' fears, if your landlord were to test the water or produce highly credible support for any assertions about the safety of the water.

We just don't know the extent of this problem --- whether it affects just old homes or apartment buildings -- and so I believe that public health precautions for us all should be taken until there is a set of rigorous criteria (including tests) set for determining the risk..

It is the city and WASA's job to answer your question, and the answer should be based first and foremost upon what is best for your health.

I don't know if you can trust your landlord.  I will certainly address this issue on the website and will and incorporate this issue into advocacy efforts.  Your questions raise most aptly the issue of the need for public education -- an area where, just as with the public health aspect of this-- the city has fallen down abysmally on the job.

Have you requested a lead kit from WASA?  Has WASA refused to give it to you?  It appears that WASA will not give out tests or test result to individual tenants.

Please do share your answer to this question.  If you haven't already contacted WASA for a water testing kit -- please do try.  It would be interesting to know if they will only give lead test kits to landlords or will make them available to renters as well?

It sounds as if WASA needs to do direct outreach to apartment dwellers since you are dependent upon your landlord for information about the state of the water at this point.  WASA needs to help you determine if you are at risk.

Have you performed a lead test using a do it yourself kit, that you can get at some hardware stores?  The best kinds appear to be the ones that you send away to a laboratory for a fee around $20.

So, in summary, the answers are these:  I don't know if you can trust the landlord.  Find out what his proof is that the water is ok.  He very well could be trying to protect the interests of the owner and/or manager of the property.  It is certainly advisable for you to protect yourself by trying to get some independent answers about the lead content of your apartment's water through requesting from WASA a water testing kit or through independents water sampling that you perform and send away to a reputable laboratory or that an independent company you hire performs and sends away.

I look forward to your response.  You identify an important and little discussed aspect of this issue.  Please keep me posted because I plan to highlight this issue on the website.  Also, do you know others with information or questions about lead in water in your apartment building or in other apartment buildings.  They may contact me.