California water politics complicate House panel’s oversight
Natural Resources chairman wants to investigate Interior secretary’s role in water allocation report that benefited a committee member’s district

California Democratic Rep. Jim Costa represents part of California’s San Joaquin Valley, a drought-prone region where the politics surrounding agricultural and water interests can often trump partisanship. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona wants his committee to give him subpoena authority for multiple possible investigations, but California Democrat Jim Costa may vote against that as the panel considers whether Interior Secretary David Bernhardt improperly influenced a decision to send more water to his district.

Costa told CQ Roll Call he’s not sure he can support giving Grijalva such unlimited subpoena authority. Costa said he discussed the matter with the chairman, who plans a committee vote on the question in January, and said he’d support a “specific subpoena” in the panel’s current investigation into the Bureau of Land Management headquarters relocation. 

Mark Ruffalo: Dangerous chemical found in water and ‘every one of you’
The ‘Avengers’ actor testified Tuesday afternoon on the Hill

Actor Mark Ruffalo at a press conference discussing the ‘Fight Forever Chemicals’ campaign on Tuesday. The campaign coincides with the release of the film ‘Dark Waters’ starring Mark Ruffalo inspired by the true story of a corporate defense attorney, who discovers a community has been dangerously exposed to deadly chemicals for decades. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Interior nears a contract with a company its secretary used to lobby for
Conservation groups fear water deal will be a hazard for protected salmon and other aquatic life

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt testifies in May 2019. The department he leads is close to completing a contract for a water district he represented as a lobbyist. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Interior Department is close to completing a permanent water supply contract for a water district once represented by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt as a lobbyist, despite concerns that doing so would imperil aquatic species including endangered salmon. 

Conservation groups say the deal between the Interior Department and the Westlands Water District, which serves and is run by farmers in California’s Central Valley, promises to permanently divert more federally managed water to the district just as climate change threatens to make the state hotter and more prone to extreme drought.

Trump administration expected to roll back clean water rule
New rule would reduce the number of waterways the federal government can protect from pollution

Wetlands and waterways such as those in the Florida Everglades, shown here, and the wildlife they sustain could be affected by the EPA's rollback of clean water protections. (Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The Trump administration is expected to complete on Thursday a new rule that rolls back parts of the 2015 clean water rule that expanded federal authority over the nation’s streams, rivers and wetlands.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler scheduled a “major water policy announcement” at the headquarters of the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group that has lobbied hard for the repeal of the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States rule, or WOTUS.

Lead Problems Also Show up in Rayburn House Office Building
Latest testing identifies two restroom sinks with tainted water

A staffer walks past the Senator Sam Rayburn statue in the Rayburn House Office building. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Water from two bathroom sinks in the Rayburn House Office Building — located in the personal suites of House members — contains high levels of lead.  

The Rayburn building is the second congressional facility after the Cannon House Office Building where recent tests have detected elevated lead levels.  

Ross Requests Investigation into Murky Capitol Hill Water Scare
Officials must answer for “alarming unresponsiveness” on lead levels

Florida Rep. Dennis Ross blasted the "alarming unresponsiveness and poor communication" of staff at the architect of the Capitol over the water contamination scare. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Florida Republican Rep. Dennis A. Ross wants the Office of Compliance to take a hard look at how Stephen T. Ayers, the architect of the Capitol, has handled a health scare precipitated by the detection of lead-contaminated drinking water in the Cannon House Office Building last month.  

In the two weeks since government officials were first warned about the potential health hazard, the actions of the architect of the Capitol have ranged from temporarily disabling a handful of drinking fountains to offering free, voluntary check-ups to worried staffers.  

Blood Tests for House Staffers Concerned About Tainted Water
Elevated lead levels in drinking water at one office building raises questions and prompts some to get screened

The Architect of the Capitol instructed staff to visit the health unit in the Rayburn House Office Building for free blood work. (Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

At least a half-dozen House staffers showed up Wednesday for the free blood testing being offered to those worried about lead-contaminated drinking water on Capitol Hill.  

The architect of the Capitol arranged for the emergency screenings after days of releasing dribs and drabs of nebulous information about the health scare related to elevated lead levels in the drinking water at the Cannon building.  

Officials to Explain Hazards of House Office Drinking Water
Congressional staff invited to briefing after elevated lead levels found

Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., demanded more information on the extent of the health hazard on the congressional campus . (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Officials with the Architect of the Capitol will answer questions about the severity of contaminated drinking water on the congressional campus in three meetings today after repeated requests from Florida Republican Dennis A. Ross.  

[Water in House Office Building Too Dangerous to Drink] The discussions are scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. in the Cannon House Office Building. Earlier this week AOC banned staff in Cannon from using drinking fountains and office filtration units after spotting elevated levels of lead in recent test samples.  

Ultimatum Given on Tainted Water in House Office Building
Congressman wants answers on lead levels; Officials set three briefings for Friday

The Cannon House Office Building where lead levels in drinking water have sparked concern. (Congressional Quarterly/File Photo)

Florida Republican Rep. Dennis A. Ross issued an ultimatum Thursday insisting that House administrators formally respond to a request for clarification about health hazards congressional staffers may be facing as a result of having possibly ingested tainted drinking water since last fall.  

Agents of the architect of the Capitol on Wednesday initially alerted only those located in the Cannon House Office Building that their drinking water was to be avoided pending an investigation into troubling levels of lead contamination.  

Water in House Office Building Too Dangerous to Drink
Congressional administrators investigating sudden spike in lead levels

Jiaxuan Tai, 5, takes a drink from the fountain on the west front of the Capitol in July 2006. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

All sources of drinking water in the Cannon House Office Building were shut down Tuesday after the architect of the Capitol noticed unusually high amounts of lead during routine sampling, a health scare lawmakers deemed totally unacceptable.  

“The most recent results, received the week of June 27, 2016, indicate lead levels in primary drinking water sources (e.g., drinking fountains) are slightly above the Environmental Protection Agency standard,” AOC officials warned on an internal discussion board.