QUESTIONS: LEAD CONTAMINATED WATER AND
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
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?
EVIDENCE FROM YOUR LANDLORD
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 IN SOME PLACES, LEAD EVERYWHERE?
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.
TAKING PRECAUTIONS IN THE INFORMATION VACUUM
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
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
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.
WASA AND LEAD TESTS TO TENANTS
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.
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.
INDEPENDENT LEAD TEST FOR YOUR APARTMENT
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.
PLEASE KEEP ME POSTED TO HELP OTHERS
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