U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to take action to protect military families from unsafe levels of lead in drinking water. Recent tests at two Hampton Roads Navy child care centers found lead in drinking water that far exceeded Environmental Protection Agency safety levels. Lead exposure has been found to cause serious medical issues including permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, which can result in behavioral and learning problems. Sen. Warner urged Secretary Hagel to confirm that appropriate testing has occurred at other military facilities across all branches of the military services.
Navy officials in Norfolk acted promptly to address the problems, and Sen. Warner praised the aggressive and proactive response by the Hampton Roads Navy command following last week's reports of unacceptably high lead levels in the drinking water at two local child development centers. The Navy secured the affected systems and alerted parents and other facilities in the region, and also established a telephone hotline for military families who might have questions about lead exposure.
However, Sen. Warner raised concerns over the apparent five-year delay between an Oct. 2007 Pentagon mandate to test lead in drinking water fixtures and the initiation of testing at Hampton Roads facilities in October 2012. Sen. Warner also asked Secretary Hagel for a briefing by Defense Department personnel on Pentagon efforts to prevent lead exposure at all military child development, youth centers and medical facilities.
"I know that you share my belief that we absolutely owe it to our military families to ensure we are providing first-rate, safe facilities on our military installations. This is especially true for the children of our troops, many of whom are deployed and rely upon us to provide their families safe and adequate housing and child care," Sen. Warner wrote. "I look forward to working with you on this issue."
More information about lead in drinking water is available at http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/lead/ or (800) 424-LEAD.
Sen. Warner has a strong record of advocacy on behalf of Virginia's military personnel, their families and military veterans. As Governor [2002-06], he consolidated Virginia's veterans service functions into a single strengthened office with Cabinet rank. In the U.S. Senate, he has worked to hold the U.S. Army responsible for burial mistakes at Arlington National Cemetery, successfully advocated for expanded PTSD services for women veterans within the V-A health system, and pushed the Navy to upgrade substandard military family housing in Hampton Roads.
Sen. Warner's full letter is available below: