For Immediate Release: September 9, 2016
- Alexandria’s water supply remains safe
- 97% of drinking water results from City facilities showed lead below the federal action level
- Fixtures with tests exceeding federal action level were immediately removed from service
- Free blood tests available for employees, but adverse health impacts unlikely
Voluntary testing of drinking water equipment in facilities owned or operated by the City of Alexandria shows that more than 97% of samples had lead levels below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s action level of 15 parts per billion. Fewer than 3 percent were above the action level, and the associated fixtures were immediately taken out of service for further testing and remediation as needed.
“These are very good results overall, and we took immediate steps to address samples with higher lead levels,” said City Manager Mark B. Jinks. “We know from decades of testing that Alexandria’s water supply is safe, but we must also ensure that City facilities – many of which have aging infrastructure –meet all appropriate standards.”
Based on news about high lead levels in Flint, Michigan, the City engaged a professional infrastructure and environmental services company to test 841 water fountains and dispensers, ice machines, and sink faucets in 250 buildings and 29 parks. Twenty-five samples in 10 facilities had lead levels above 15 parts per billion, none of which came from water sources used by the public. Fifty-nine percent (496 samples) showed either no lead at all, or lead levels of less than 1 part per billion. Click here for the complete list of test results.
The samples exceeding the EPA action level included those from one staff sink at City Hall (301 King St.), one staff water fountain at the Department of Community and Human Services’ (DCHS) main offices (2525 Mt. Vernon Ave.), two sinks at a DCHS residential facility on Notabene Drive, one staff sink at the Archives and Records Center (801 S. Payne St.), six water fountains in holding cells at the Franklin P. Backus Courthouse (520 King St.), eight water fountains in inmate cells (out of 339 fixtures tested) at the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center (2001 Mill Rd.), one staff sink at the William Ramsay Recreation Center (5750 Sanger Ave.), two staff sinks at The Lyceum (201 S. Washington St.), one bathroom sink under construction at Limerick Field (1800 Limerick St.), and two kitchen sinks in the American Legion Hall (400 Cameron St.).
Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that periodic exposure to lead in drinking water would be unlikely to cause adverse health effects in most adults, the City is providing free blood testing for any City employee who wishes to be tested.
Tests in City facilities follow those conducted by the Alexandria City Public Schools in May, which showed that none of the samples tested from 22 school facilities tested exceeded the EPA action level and 18 showed no lead at all.
Drinking water in Alexandria is provided by Virginia American Water, a private utility. Based on the company’s periodic random sampling and reports from doctors, the City is not aware of any instance of dangerously high lead levels in Alexandria drinking water going back many years. However, while the water supplied to an individual building may be lead-free, lead may be introduced by the building’s service line, pipes or fixtures. A building is considered at high risk for lead plumbing if it was built before 1940 or contains copper pipe and lead solder installed before 1988.
Water is carried under streets via large water mains owned by Virginia American Water, which do not contain lead. A service line connects each residential or commercial building to the water main. With few exceptions, the segment of a service line between the water main and the private property line does not contain lead. However, service lines between the property line and the building may contain lead, as may the pipes and fixtures within a building.
Testing drinking water that comes out of a fixture is often more practical than determining whether a given service line or building plumbing contains lead. Residents or businesses interested in testing for lead should contact a certified laboratory.
Additional information about lead in drinking water, including certified testing laboratories, is available at www.alexandriava.gov/Health.