D.C. health official fired over worries about lead

March 27, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - With concern growing over unsafe lead levels in the drinking water here, city officials blamed the federal government this week for the problem. Yesterday, the city fired the head of the Health Department because, the officials said, he had in part not adequately responded to the problem.

The mayor's office acknowledged yesterday that it had dismissed the health director, James A. Buford, and replaced him with an interim director, Herbert R. Tillery, the deputy mayor for operations.

The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority says Buford did not respond to a request in December to inform the public about the lead.

Buford's phone number was not available, and he could not be reached for comment.

Officials say that 4,000 houses have shown high levels of lead in tests and that additional thousands might be affected. The officials said they had traced the source of the problem to a change in water treatment that strengthened the chlorine by adding ammonia. The ammonia leaches lead from water pipes.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams and other city officials faulted the Army Corps of Engineers, which used the ammonia, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which monitors the water system. City officials have asked the federal government to reimburse it for nearly $26 million spent on pipes, testing and other expenses.

"It would be wholly inappropriate and unjust for the people of the district to bear these costs," Williams, a Democrat, and Carol Schwartz, the top Republican on the City Council, wrote to President Bush this week.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.