From: Associated Press
Published October 11, 2004 12:00 AM

Lead Contamination Is a Serious Problem in Dozens of Drinking-Water Systems, Says Newspaper

WASHINGTON — Dozens of the nation's largest drinking water utilities have tried to hide lead contamination and failed to correct problems, it was reported recently.


An examination of 65 of the 3,000 largest utilities found cities such as Philadelphia; Boston; New York City; Providence, Rhode Island; and Portland, Oregon, are "manipulating the results of tests used to detect lead in water, violating federal law, and putting millions of Americans at risk," said the Washington Post.


State and federal regulators helped utilities avoid expensive ways of reducing lead in drinking water, the paper said.


Pregnant women and infants are the most vulnerable to lead, which can cause kidney and brain damage and, in some cases, death.


The Environmental Protection Agency has required drinking water utilities since 1991 to reduce contamination if lead concentrations exceed 15 parts per billion in more than 10 percent of taps sampled.


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About 54,000 community water systems supply water to 268 million Americans, or about 90 percent of the U.S. population, according to American Water Works Association, a trade group.


The Post said its analysis of EPA data identified 274 water systems, serving 11.5 million people, that had reported unsafe lead levels since 2000.


Problems with lead in drinking water surfaced in 2002 for thousands of residents in Washington, D.C., but only gained widespread attention this year. Residents complained that the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority did little to alert them.


EPA said only four large water systems, together serving 1.1 million people, had unsafe lead levels in the past three years: Washington, D.C.; St. Paul, Minnesota; Port St. Lucie, Florida; and Ridgewood, New Jersey.


Source: Associated Press


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