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Watchdog says HUD failed to ensure multifamily housing had safe water

HUD did not possess "assurance" that water flowing to the housing was safe for consumption because the department depended on the Environmental Protection Agency to make certain that water was lead free.

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Water flowing from tap in Germany in 2007
Water flowing from tap in Germany in 2007
(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Updated: August 31, 2020 - 11:41pm

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) lacked adequate policies to make certain that multifamily housing units had access to sufficient amounts of safe, lead-free water, according to the agency's internal watchdog.

HUD did not possess "assurance" that water flowing to the housing was safe for consumption because the department depended on the Environmental Protection Agency to make certain that the water was safe, the HUD Inspector General determined.

"HUD did not require actions to reduce the levels of lead in the water of multifamily housing units when public water systems exceeded the [EPA's] lead action level," the report says.

The Inspector General found that workers in four field offices were ignorant about heightened lead content contained in water provided by systems in areas which they oversaw.

"Staff members from four of the five field Offices were not aware of elevated levels of lead in the water in the communities served by the public water systems before being notified of our audit. Further, none of the field Offices requested that the owners or management agents of the selected multifamily housing properties take action regarding the potential for lead in the water of their multifamily housing units," the report said.

"Note that HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs did not have policies, procedures, or controls that regional satellite office or center staff members could refer to in order to require a multifamily property owner or agent to take action regarding the potential for lead in the water of its multifamily housing units," a footnote added.

The IG recommended that HUD craft procedures to be alerted when a water system exceeds lead safety levels and to apprise property owners and managers.