The issue of lead-contaminated drinking water has reached Capitol Hill, though not the way most people expected.
On June 28, congressional offices were alerted to the discovery of high levels of lead in the Cannon House Office Building’s water supply. An email from House office buildings superintended William Widemeyer cited lead levels “slightly above the EPA standard” as being sufficient reason for turning off all drinking water sources and office-provided filtration units while the cause is investigated.
A subsequent notice from the Architect of the Capitol, which oversees the operation of the U.S. Capitol complex, reported that tests of 26 drinking water areas in the Cannon Building revealed five with lead levels ranging from 2 to 56 parts per billion above the EPA standard of 15 parts per billion. Though the date of these tests has not been disclosed, the most recent previous test of the system, conducted in September, reportedly found no unsafe results.
Several Members of Congress have criticized the Architect’s office for failing to provide detailed information about the tests and contamination levels, and their potential health ramifications.
Built in 1908, the 826,465-sq ft Cannon Office Building is the oldest of three Capitol Hill facilities providing offices and support space for 435 Representatives and their staffs. A10-year, $752.7 million renovation program, begun in January 2015 to address what the Architect’s website says are “serious safety, health, environmental and operational issues that are rapidly worsening.” This would appear to include structural and building systems that “have not been modernized during the building’s existence.”
A joint venture of AECOM and McDonough Bolyard Peck, Fairfax, Va., is serving as construction manager for the project, which includes replacement and upgrades to heating, cooling, lighting, plumbing, fire and life safety, accessibility and structural integrity systems. The project’s most recent update includes the installation of utility piping, mechanical and electrical rooms in the building’s garage.