Philadelphia Sued for Hiding Lead Pipe Risk

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By Leslie A. Pappas

June 3 — Philadelphia city officials have known for years that lead in water mains and pipes poses a contamination risk to the city's drinking water and have covered up the problem by rigging lead tests, a class action lawsuit filed in Philadelphia alleges ( Delopoulos v. City of Philadelphia, Pa. Comm Pleas. Ct., No. 160503980, Complaint filed 6/2/16 ).

City resident Eleni Delopoulos filed the class action complaint against the city on June 2 in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County.

Philadelphia officials are aware that construction projects and water main repairs cause unsafe levels of lead to leach into the drinking water, yet have neither warned residents nor changed practices, the complaint says.

Instead of taking action to reduce lead levels, the city has actively tried to conceal the problem by skewing the results of lead testing, the complaint alleges. The city does this by testing “an inordinate amount of low risk homes, diluting its testing pool and skewing the results in such as way as to paint a woefully inaccurate picture of the City's overall lead contamination,” the complaint says.

The Philadelphia Water Department delivers drinking water to approximately 60,000 homes in Philadelphia via lead pipes, according to the complaint. Although Philadelphia treats its water with zinc orthophosphate to prevent pipes from corroding and leaching lead into the drinking water, the protective coating that develops on pipes can be disturbed by street work, construction projects, sewer main replacement, meter installation or plumbing repairs, the complaint says.

Delopoulos is asking the city to pay for testing to see if she and her child have lead poisoning, and replace all of her service lines. The suit also seeks relief on behalf of all residents of Philadelphia who have had water mains or meters replaced in the last 10 years.

A spokesman for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) said he was aware of the suit but would not comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Leslie A. Pappas in Philadelphia at lpappas@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The case is available at http://src.bna.com/fAf