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AOC Warns Staffers Not to Drink Hill’s Tap Water

Citing the possibility of lead contamination, the Architect of the Capitol’s office is cautioning Congressional staff against drinking water from restroom faucets and kitchenette sinks throughout the Capitol complex.

The warning, issued Friday to Capitol Hill employees via e-mail, comes as the Architect’s office begins a “comprehensive sampling” of water across the Congressional campus in response to the recent discovery of elevated lead levels in drinking water in all three Library of Congress buildings.

An AOC spokeswoman said the announcement, made at the urging of the Environmental Protection Agency, is a precautionary measure while the agency works with both the EPA and Public Health Service’s Federal Occupational Health office to complete the campus-wide survey — which includes the Capitol complex as well as other buildings under the Architect’s jurisdiction such as the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building next to Union Station.

“We want people to have as much information as possible,” said AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki.

According to the AOC’s warning letter, the bathroom and kitchenette faucets are a specific risk because many of the units were installed before federal standards were established in 1996 to limit the amount of lead that many “leach” from plumbing components into drinking water.

The letter also notes that some bathroom faucets are exempt from the standard.

Malecki said testing of water samples from the bathroom and kitchenette faucets, as well as drinking fountains and kitchen sinks, should be completed in coming weeks, and employees will be notified on a building-by-building basis of the results.

The Architect’s office previously tested water sources at 246 locations across Capitol Hill in spring 2004 after the discovery of elevated lead levels in the District of Columbia water supply, but found only isolated cases of contaminated drinking water.

Additional tests in Library of Congress facilities in December 2004, however, detected lead exceeding the EPA safety guideline of 20 parts per billion.

In response to the test results and a related citation from the Office of Compliance, the AOC has shut down the drinking water system throughout the LOC’s Adams Building, and has turned off several drinking fountains in both the Madison and Jefferson buildings.

According to the Office of Compliance citation, the AOC must establish a long-term remediation plan for the Library’s drinking water system within six months.

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