Water in Alexandria jail, government buildings tests high for lead

WASHINGTON — After testing 841 water fixtures in government buildings across the City of Alexandria, officials announced that 25 had lead levels higher than what is recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency, while the rest were lead-free or had safe lead levels.

Six of the fixtures with high lead levels were water fountains in holding cells at the Franklin P. Backus Courthouse on King Street; eight were water fountains in inmate cells at the city jail.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, periodic exposure to lead in drinking water is unlikely to cause adverse health effects for most adults.

“That said, it’s still not OK to have a fixture above the EPA action level,” said Craig Fifer, spokesman for the City of Alexandria.

Any fixture that had high lead levels was either replaced or taken out of service, Fifer said.

Employees can receive free blood testing if they wish, city officials said. There is no word on whether the same benefit would be offered to inmates.

City officials said there is “very little chance of a problem for inmates because the lead levels were not extraordinarily high to begin with, cells have constant turnover and inmates tend to avoid using the water fountains in their cells.”

Many of the inmates at the city jail preferred to drink water from other fountains or at meals and found the fountain-sink-toilet fixture a little off-putting to drink from, Fifer said.

Last month, Alexandria City Public Schools said none of its water fixtures had lead levels that exceeded EPA recommendations.

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