Q. How does WASA decide where to do replacements?

Lead Service Replacement-FAQs
Why is WASA replacing the lead service lines?
WASA‘s mission is to provide quality water service to each of its customers. WASA replaces
lead service lines as part of our ongoing system upgrade and maintenance efforts. In 2002,
when our regular water sample testing showed increased lead levels, WASA’s Board
dramatically intensified lead service replacement (LSR) efforts. Even now, when lead levels
are low and District drinking water is in compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) standard, the Board has reaffirmed its commitment to replace all lead service
pipes in public space throughout the District of Columbia.
How does lead get in drinking water?
The federal government requires drinking water treatment plants, like the Washington
Aqueduct, to make sure treated water does not corrode pipes. When this treatment fails to
work, lead pipes (service lines) that connect your house to the water main, as well as the
lead-based solder used to join copper pipe and brass and chrome plated brass faucets in
your home wear away over time and release lead. When water stands in lead pipes or
plumbing systems containing lead for several hours or more, some lead may dissolve into your
drinking water. This means the first water drawn from the tap in the morning, or later in the
afternoon after returning from work or school, may contain higher than normal levels of lead.
Why should I replace the lead service line pipe on my private property?
The lead service pipe may also be on your private property between the property line and
the shutoff valve inside your basement. Even when WASA replaces the pipe in public space,
lead pipe may remain on private property.
How is the price of replacing the lead water service line pipe on my private property
If your private lead pipe is replaced at the same time as the public part by the contractor
under its contract with WASA, you get a special rate of only $100 per foot plus a $500 fee to
take the pipe into the home. For example, if you have 20 feet of private property in front of
your house, the total cost would be $2,500 (20 feet x $100 = $2,000 + $500 = $2,500).
Who pays for private property replacement?
WASA can only pay for replacement of service pipes in the public space. Replacement of
service pipes on private property is the homeowner’s responsibility.
What percentage of owners have had their pipes changed on their private property?
So far, over a quarter of all homeowners have participated in WASA’s private property
replacement program.
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Is the water safe to drink?
Yes. The water has always met health standards under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
When lead levels in District drinking water exceeded the lead action level of 15 parts per
billion (ppb), blood-screening tests of 6800 District residents showed no identifiable health
What is WASA doing to address the elevated levels of lead in drinking water in District homes?
The EPA has officially determined that District drinking water complies with federal standards
under the Lead and Copper Rule. As a precaution, WASA is also working to replace all lead
service pipes in the city within public spaces. So far, we have replaced over 10,000 lead
service lines in homes throughout the city and continue to identify others for future
replacement over the next ten years.
Is there anything I can do to make my water safer if I have a lead service line?
Before cooking or drinking you should:
o Run water for at least 60 seconds
o Draw water after a high water use such as bathing or flushing the toilet
o Use only cold or filtered tap water for cooking and drinking.
I would like an independent lab to test my water. Who can I contact? A. There are a
number of state-certified independent labs in the Washington metropolitan area if you wish
to have your water tested. Following is a list of a few:
AMA Analytical Services, Inc.
Lanham, MD
Metropolitan Environmental Testing Services, Inc.
Waldorf, MD, 20602
Anabell Environmental, Inc.
Gaithersburg, MD
Silver Spring, MD
Are there filters available that can eliminate lead from drinking water?
Yes, there are filters available; however, like all products, some are better than others. We
recommend that you check with the NSF International Consumer website
www.nsf.org/consumer) or the Consumer Affairs Office at 1-877-867-3435 for a list of certified
filters. Their website is an excellent source of information on home filtration devices. You can
also call or write filter manufacturers, your plumber or your local home improvement store to
help you with selecting filter devices.
October, 2006
How does WASA decide where to do replacements?
WASA picks those blocks that our records show have the most lead service lines in the public
space. We then work with DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) to do replacements on
streets before they are scheduled to be repaved by DDOT. Addresses that will be given
priority replacement status must have verification that water test results show high levels of at
least 300 ppb lead AND where children under the age of six, or where pregnant or nursing
women reside AND where the owner agrees to replace the private portion of the service line
concurrently with WASA’s replacement of the public portion of the service line.
How can I find out if my home’s water service pipes are lead?
Contact WASA’s LSR Hotline at (202) 787-2732 or e-mail
waterquality@wasa.com. We will check our database that shows the known pipe material
for District addresses.
How is WASA telling residents about lead service replacements in their communities?
WASA is meeting with ANCs representing communities where replacements are scheduled.
There are also notices sent to individual addresses before construction, including
o Information Package - approximately 45 days before (info and contract for private
o “What to Expect” booklet - approximately 2 weeks before
o “No Parking” signs - 72 hours before
o Door hanger notice - 48 hours before
Where’s the public space?
WASA is replacing lead service pipes located in public space, which includes the street, tree
space, sidewalk and may include what you think of as your front yard. In some areas of
Washington D.C., the public space extends up to foundation of the building or beyond.
WASA and its contractors obtain information on the location of private property lines from
DDOT’s Office of Permits and Public Space.
Public Space--------------------|------------------------ Private property
distance varies
Do I have to have my yard dug up?
WASA owns and maintains the water service pipes in the public space and is responsible for
replacing those that are lead. If the test pit shows that you have copper pipes, then no
October, 2006
further digging is necessary. However, to replace a lead service pipe in public space, the
contractor has to dig up to the private property line (see above for property line discussion),
which may be in your yard. To minimize digging, the contractor puts the new pipe in place
with a special tool called a “mole” that pulls the pipe between a few holes.
I don’t know whether I have lead pipes or not. Since you’re in my area, can I ask the
contractor to test and replace any lead pipe he finds?
The contractor is only permitted to work on pre-assigned/pre-determined properties. If you
have questions about your property call the LSR Hotline at (202) 787-2732.
What are those colored paint markings in my yard or on the street?
To prevent accidents, all contractors or property owners are required by law to call Miss Utility
to locate and mark out existing utility lines before digging. The paint used is temporary and
fades away over time. To check if these lines are for WASA work, you may call the LSR
Hotline at (202) 787-2732.
Will my fences/retaining wall/porch/hedges be disturbed or damaged?
In most cases, retaining walls, fences, porches and hedges are not disturbed. The contractor
tries to dig as few holes as possible and use a special tool (“mole”) to pull the pipe
underground between these holes. However, if an older retaining wall near the work area is
disturbed as a result of the work, the contractor will repair any damage caused by their
crews. WASA contractors take photographs of the repair area prior to replacement in order
to restore the area properly. You should move any special plantings when you see the “Miss
Utility” markings. You should also locate, mark and MAKE SURE YOU TELL THE CONTRACTOR
about underground items such as electronic dog fences or irrigations systems, which may
interfere with the lead, service replacement.
How long will my water be turned off during construction?
The water is generally turned off for less than two hours.
What steps should I take after lead pipe replacement?
Removing lead pipes will certainly eliminate a possible source of lead contamination.
However, in some cases, lead shavings that come loose in the pipes after construction can
cause a temporary increase in lead levels. Running water through your faucets to clean out
debris and cleaning your aerators immediately after construction reduces the chances of this
Can WASA assure me that I won’t have lead in my water after lead service replacement?
The federal government requires drinking water treatment plants, like the Washington
Aqueduct, to make sure treated water does not corrode pipes. Replacing lead pipes in the
public and private space greatly reduces the chances of elevated levels of lead in your
water in the future. However, lead can leach into your water from older lead soldered pipes
and brass fixtures in your home. If you have any concerns, you should have your water
tested by a certified source.
October, 2006
Who is responsible for repairing or replacing plumbing in my home?
The upkeep, repair and replacement of private plumbing is the responsibility of the
How does WASA treat older and historic trees and their roots when digging?
To help avoid damage, the crews put the new pipe in place with a special tool called a
“mole” that pulls the pipe between just a few holes. This process has little impact on trees
and roots. On a case-by-case basis, WASA works with the DDOT tree expert/arborist to
develop a plan and work around major roots.
When will the roadway, sidewalk and my yard be restored?
To replace the lead service lines, lawns, tree spaces, sidewalks and streets may be dug up.
WASA contractors will restore areas behind the curb within two weeks after replacement
(assuming no delays due to weather). Streets will be patched by WASA within 60 days. DDOT
is responsible for final repaving in most cases (again, if there are no weather delays).
Although every effort will be made to save trees, shrubs and other plants, some may be
damaged or lost. The contractor will notify you roughly two weeks before construction starts
so you can move any shrubs or plantings.
Will WASA’s contractors replace grass with sod or seed?
WASA contractors restore lawns and tree boxes with grass seed.
Is the historic brick going to be replaced when it is taken up? Will the colors be matched and
what does WASA do to ensure that its contractors replace antique brick with antique brick?
WASA requires that, when necessary, the contractor temporarily remove all brick and keep it
stored for reuse. Every attempt is made to use the same bricks. However, even when the
same bricks are replaced after construction, the color may slightly vary. Occasionally, new
brick may have to be used and will not match exactly.
How does WASA handle automobile traffic during construction?
WASA works with DDOT to make sure cars can move on the streets where contractors are
working. Generally, the contractor does not need to close a street to traffic. In certain
unusual situations, DDOT may suggest that the street be temporarily closed to accommodate
the work and arranges for signs to detour traffic to other streets.
How can I find out if my block is scheduled for lead replacement service in another
calendar year?
WASA is working closely with DDOT to coordinate our future lead replacement service
schedule with their ongoing road repair efforts. As soon as our construction schedules are
updated, we make that information available on our Web site at www.dcwasa.com.
October, 2006