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No Answer on Tainted Water in House Office Building

Experts to help figure out the cause of elevated lead levels, staff raise health concerns

High lead levels prompted the Architect of the Capitol to turn off drinking water in the Cannon House Office Building. (Jeremy Silk Smith/CQ Roll Call)
High lead levels prompted the Architect of the Capitol to turn off drinking water in the Cannon House Office Building. (Jeremy Silk Smith/CQ Roll Call)

BY JEREMY SILK SMITH

Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers said Friday that the cause of high lead levels in the Cannon House Office Building is not clear — but that previous tests for more than a decade had not shown any problems. 

Ayers held three briefings on Friday about the high lead levels and later said his office is conducting more tests.

He had received test results on Monday showing that lead in the water was higher than 15ppb, which is the level at which  the EPA requires further action. Ayers said he immediately shut off the water in the Cannon  building and ordered further testing and analysis.

[Water in House Office Building Too Dangerous to Drink]

“What’s important in the meantime, as we go through that process, is to be sure the building occupants have a potable source of water,” Ayers said. “We got that taken care of and we need to be sure we communicate with them what’s happening on a regular basis.”

Water quality testing for the previous 11 years also was reviewed but did not reveal any previous problems with lead in the water.

Ayers’ office issued a letter about the lead contamination on Tuesday. 

 A statement from the office of Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said the letter “was vague and provided very little details.”

[Ultimatum Given on Tainted Water in House Office Building]

Members of Lieu’s staff attended one of Friday’s briefings. Afterward, his office issued another statement saying that the meeting provided some information but there were details lacking about which offices had been contaminated, and no answer about whether staffers who have been drinking the water will be tested.

“I find the lack of this information troubling,” Lieu said in the statement. “My staff and I remain concerned and eagerly await further information from them.”

Ayers also issued a statement Friday saying that his office is “working diligently on options to provide blood testing or testing reimbursements for Cannon building occupants and we will be able to answer that question in the next few days.”

Ayers told Roll Call that his office is retesting of all buildings his office supervises for lead contamination and is bringing in experts to help figure out the cause and to fix it.

“I think it’s important that we not put out a timeline,” Ayers said. “It’s important that we follow the science, then we figure out how to fix it and then we do a comprehensive testing program to be sure.”

Contact Smith at  jeremysmith@cqrollcall.com   and follow him on Twitter  @JeremySilkSmith.

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