Miller Letter to Mayor Fenty Regarding the Lead-in-Water Crisis in Washington, D.C.
August 3, 2009
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty
Executive Office of the Mayor
Government of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
Dear Mayor Fenty:
The Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight is investigating several issues related to the 2003-2004 lead in water crisis in Washington, D.C. We have been particularly interested in the role played by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You may recall that The Washington Post broke a story in January 2004 revealing that D.C. and federal authorities knew that houses serviced by lead lines were carrying water into homes with lead levels as much as 20 times that allowed under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The CDC joined other Federal agencies in responding to this public health crisis and published a paper in March 2004, coauthored by CDC and Washington, D.C. Department of Health (DOH) officials that suggested there was no danger to children or the public from the elevated lead levels in water. With that CDC publication, the public’s concern for this issue died down.
During the course of our preliminary investigation, the Subcommittee has discovered that the District of Columbia government and the CDC failed to collect or analyze all data from 2003 on the public health risks associated with lead in D.C.’s water. In fact, they knew of serious questions regarding a major gap in the blood lead level (BLL) test data they relied upon in the March 2004 paper, before that report was published. Further, the Subcommittee has been told by CDC officials of problems in the management of the D.C. lead reporting system. This should have set off warning bells that CDC could not rely on the numbers being provided for public health statements.