DC Water addresses communication concerns during water advisory

WASHINGTON — The boil water advisory that was issued on Thursday evening has been lifted, but some in the DC community criticized DC Water’s effectiveness in communicating the alert with residents.

In a press conference held at the Bryant Street Pumping Station on Sunday, David Gadis, the general manager and CEO of DC Water, said that they took in feedback from the community while the advisory was in effect and that the agency would be hosting a round table-style discussion about how to be more effective in getting important messages to the community out quickly in the future.

Gadis said that DC Water relied on media outlets and government agencies to help deliver the warning to the community, along with issuing alerts on their website and social media pages.

“That worked pretty well in this incident,” Gadis said. “With the Washington Post, Washington Times, the network TV affiliates and radio stations covering this issue extensively.”

Despite the communication resources available, Gadis said that the timing of the incident worked against them. The drop in pressure at the Bryant Street station happened on Thursday evening. According to Gadis, by the time that officials had done an investigation into the incident and decided that a boil water advisory should be issued, it was already past midnight. Instead, the boil water advisory was issued on Friday morning. Gadis said that DC Water felt that an alert issued in the middle of the night would be missed by the people who needed to hear it and help relay it to others.

The initial pressure drop was caused by a valve that was left open at the Bryant Street Pumping Station. The open valve caused water pressure to drop across much of Northeast and parts of Northwest DC. Anytime that water pressure drops, it is possible for harmful bacteria to get into the system.

The area affected by the boil advisory shrank dramatically on Friday and Saturday, but officials said tests did find coliform bacteria in water drawn from one of 13 fire hydrants tested which led to the advisory being extended into Sunday. Officials have since tested the same hydrant and did not find the presence of unsafe bacteria.

Gadis said that the pressure drop was not related to an issue with the infrastructure of the pumping station, and that an investigation is currently being conducted to ensure the problem does not repeat itself.

“Now that the alert is over, I want to assure everyone that drinking water is safe in our city and it is safe to drink as well.” Gadis said. “In fact, all this talking is making me thirsty.”

Gadis did not drink any water after issuing this statement.

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