U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- Thousands of homes in Northwest D.C. have
begun receiving newly treated drinking water, the first step in
efforts to reverse lead contamination in the city's vast water
A small pump has started feeding orthophosphate into water being
pumped at the Fort Reno pumping station. The station serves about
20,000 homes in a roughly 2.5 square mile area.
Orthophosphate is a corrosion inhibitor that, over time, forms a
protective coating inside pipes and fixtures to prevent lead from
leaching into drinking water, according to officials from the
Washington Aqueduct. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates the
facility that supplies water to the District and Arlington County and
the city of Falls Church in Virginia.
Lead-lined pipes and plumbing fixtures containing lead are
believed to be the source of contamination in the drinking water
General Manager Tom Jacobus said the Fort Reno area was chosen for
the chemical introduction because the water is pumped a second time
after coming from the city's main water source, the Dalecarlia
Reservoir, and the residential and service lines in the area are
typical of those found across the city.
"We can control and observe the effects in that area," said
Jacobus. The limited introduction is to make sure the physical
process of treating the water is working. The entire water system
will receive orthophosphate treatment beginning later this summer.
Orthophosphate won't affect how the tastes, looks, or smells of
the water, but could cause some water to briefly appear red, the
result of rust from iron in the water, and should clear up quickly,
The chemical will be a permanent addition to the area's water
supply. It will be at least six months before lead levels start to
"We hope, and have reason to believe, it will be as effective as
it has been in other jurisdictions," said D.C. Water and Sewer
Authority spokesman Johnnie Hemphill.
Because the process takes time, Hemphill said customers who are
already taking steps to reduce the threat of lead contamination, such
as flushing the pipes and using water purification filters, should
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