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Protection From Lead Contamination

Comprehensive Report on Lead in DC’s Drinking Water

In spite of DC’s considerable progress in significantly reducing lead contamination over nearly 20 years, our city has not fully addressed the risk of lead poisoning among children. That is why DC Appleseed advocated for the District of Columbia to establish a childhood lead screening registry, which began rollout in 2021.

Appleseed’s work on lead contamination dates to 2004 when there was a public outcry against dangerous levels of lead in the drinking water and the failure of the DC Water and Sewer Authority to keep the public informed. DC Councilmember Carol Schwartz, in her role as the Chair of the Committee on Public Works and the Environment, asked DC Appleseed to examine the problem and make recommendations for addressing it. We agreed to take on a comprehensive study which included an examination of how other jurisdictions were address the issue of lead contamination. Our report, Lead in the District of Columbia Drinking Water: A Call for Reform, presented a number of recommendations which have been adopted.

In response to our recommendation that the District government create a new agency that would be in charge of administering all environmental programs, in 2006, DC’s Department of Energy and the Environment was established. Our lead in the water crisis made District residents aware that a major source of contamination is the lead service pipes that carry water across the city and into our homes. We are pleased that DC Water (the agency which replaced DC Water and Sewer Authority) is making good progress in replacing lead service lines. The agency’s goal is to replace all lead service lines by 2030.


Our report pressed for increased sampling and better communication of the results to DC residents. DC Water is doing a much better job of sampling and communication than the agency it replaced.

Report Recommendations Lead to Significant Improvement

Unfortunately, only 31% of children are given the CDC-recommended two screenings by age 2, which is required by DC law. We are committed to help improve that statistic.


DC Appleseed is pleased that the DC Department of Energy and the Environment is developing a child lead screening registry. We are strongly encouraging its integration into the Department of Health’s immunization information system. We are also advocating for a robust education campaign that will inform pediatricians, parents, social service agencies and others about the registry. 

Need for Increased Efforts to Address Lead Exposure in Young Children


Staff Contact:

Neil Richardson

Pro Bono Partners:

Patton Boggs LLP

Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP

Akin Gump LLP

Toddler being tested for lead poisoning

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