WUOMFM

Water in Flint congressman Dan Kildee's D.C. office tainted with lead

Jun 30, 2016

Credit Michigan Municipal League / dan kildee

The Washington, D.C. and Flint offices of U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., are nearly 600 miles apart. But lead-tainted water has recently been a problem in both. 

Monday, the Architect of the Capitol's office sent an eye-opening advisory to staffers in the D.C. building housing Kildee's office.

"This week, the AOC received results within the Cannon House Office Building that indicate lead levels in drinking water sources are slightly above the EPA standard," wrote William Weidemeyer, the House Office Buildings superintendent. 

The Cannon taps were turned off on Tuesday night, and bottled water was made available to staffers throughout the building beginning on Wednesday. 

It's an oddly familiar situation for Kildee and his staff, who represent a district that in recent years has dealt with the impacts of the Flint water crisis, in which many of the congressman's constituents were unknowingly exposed to lead-tainted water for months. 

Kildee said comparing the response in D.C. to the response in Flint yields ugly results. 

"They moved pretty swiftly (in D.C.) to make sure that there was bottled water available, much faster than what we saw take place here in Flint," he said. "That's not a surprise to me. But I think it points out that very often, we just leave places like Flint behind.... Irony, I think, is too kind a word. It's a distinction that I think is painful for some of us to watch." 

At the same time, the Cannon drinking water issues could play into an ongoing debate about the role of the federal government in providing assistance to Flint.

"Particularly at a time when we continue to push for significant federal help for the city of Flint, who is dealing with that issue in a more extreme way, and we can't get Congress to move," Kildee said. "So maybe this helps, a little bit, make the point that it could happen to anyone." 

There are some concerns for the health of staffers working in the Cannon building who've been drinking the water over the course of the last several months.

Politico reported Wednesday that five of 26 drinking water sources sampled tested above the EPA's lead limit of 15 parts per billion, with one even measuring at 56 parts per billion. One Florida representative whose wife works as a congressional chief of staff even sent an e-mail expressing concern for the health of their newborn child.

"My staff are people that I care a great deal about, and I want to make sure to protect their health, and we'll obviously take all the necessary precautions," Kildee said. "It's not irony that is lost on me, that wherever we go, whether it's working in my hometown or in my Washington office where I represent my hometown, we have the same kind of a problem. We just need to make sure people are armed with the information that they need to protect themselves, whether it's here or there."