Photos: How D.C. keeps its water safe from lead

Lead leaching from lead pipes into drinking water was the focus of Washington, D.C.'s drinking water crisis. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Tom Jacobus, general manager of the Washington Aqueduct, demonstrates how the addition of orthophosphate during the water treatment process changes the composition of aging lead pipes in customers’ homes. Adding orthophosphate prevents lead pipes from leaching lead into a home’s drinking water. Related story: Before Flint, D.C.’s drinking water crisis was even worse  (WTOP/Neal Augenstein) (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Even without lead service lines, which carry water from the street into a home, lead can be introduced in copper pipes with lead solder or older fixtures, which were allowed to contain large amounts of lead. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)  
In the lower level of the Washington Aqueduct, orthophosphate is ready to be introduced to the water treatment process. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
The amount of orthophosphate added to the water was tweaked soon after treatment began in 2004, says Tom Jacobus of the Washington Aqueduct. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Pumps add orthophosphate to water toward the end of the treatment process, says Tom Jacobus. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
The Washington Aqueduct now runs lead pipe loops, which allows fully treated water to run through lead pipes at the plant, to make sure corrosion is being controlled. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
In addition to real-time computer monitoring of orthophosphate levels, scientists at the Aqueduct sample treated water hourly in the laboratory. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Before Flint, Michigan, the nation's capital dealt with its own lead-in-water crisis. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
By testing lab samples of water hourly for corrosion, in addition to computerized readings,  the Washington Aqueduct has a second method of ensuring drinking water isn’t causing leaching of lead from lead pipes. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein) (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Water turns blue in the vial during testing at the Washington Aqueduct as part of the procedure to make sure treated water isn’t causing corrosion of lead service lines and pipes. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Customers of DC Water can have drinking water tested for lead. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
DC Water customers can request free tests of their tap water.  Samples sent for lead testing are done at the Aqueduct. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein) (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
If testing at the Washington Aqueduct reveals unsafe levels of lead in customers’ water, DC Water offers suggestions on making sure lead-free water is used for drinking, cooking, and food preparation. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Virginia Tech environmental engineer Marc Edwards has been instrumental in researching the Flint and D.C. lead-in-water crises. (Photo courtesy Virginia Tech) (Virginia Tech)
Marc Edwards examines plumbing in Flint, Michigan. (Photo courtesy Virginia Tech)
Environmental engineer Marc Edwards examines plumbing in Flint, Michigan. (Photo courtesy Virginia Tech) (Virginia Tech)
Marc Edwards and students from Virginia Tech are testing drinking water in Flint, Michigan. (Photo courtesy Virginia Tech)
Marc Edwards and students from Virginia Tech are testing drinking water in Flint, Michigan. (Photo courtesy Virginia Tech) (Virginia Tech)
In 2004, four-year-old Nic Cappella cries as a blood sample is drawn.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
In 2004, four-year-old Nic Cappella cries as a blood sample is drawn as he is tested for lead. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Alex Wong)
Water filters were handed out during D.C.'s drinking water crisis. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Water filters were handed out in 2004, during D.C.’s drinking water crisis. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Alex Wong)
(1/17)
Lead leaching from lead pipes into drinking water was the focus of Washington, D.C.'s drinking water crisis. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Before Flint, Michigan, the nation's capital dealt with its own lead-in-water crisis. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Customers of DC Water can have drinking water tested for lead. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Marc Edwards examines plumbing in Flint, Michigan. (Photo courtesy Virginia Tech)
Marc Edwards and students from Virginia Tech are testing drinking water in Flint, Michigan. (Photo courtesy Virginia Tech)
In 2004, four-year-old Nic Cappella cries as a blood sample is drawn.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Water filters were handed out during D.C.'s drinking water crisis. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

© 2016 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up