With the passage of the Public Facilities Environmental Safety Amendment Act of 2020, the D.C. Council amended the Healthy Public Buildings Assessment Act of 2016 and the Safe Fields and Playgrounds Act of 2018. As a result, the Department of General Services (DGS) has expanded its frequency and scope of testing for environmental risks in all DGS owned and managed public buildings, as well as expanded lead testing at all recreational spaces with synthetic surfaces (e.g., parks, dog parks, playgrounds, spray parks, athletic fields, and other spaces used for recreational activities owned or maintained by the District).
To view the full amendment and law, visit: D.C. Law 23-233. Public Facilities Environmental Safety Amendment Act of 2020.
DGS Environmental Safety Testing Dashboard
Visit the DGS Environmental Safety Testing Dashboard for more information about the different types of testing listed above. The dashboard below streamlines the results of environmental safety testing of the 17 categories of environmental risks in public buildings, as well as lead testing on the surfaces of public recreation spaces.
When you click this link for the DGS Environmental Safety Testing Dashboard, you will be asked to register for access.
The data include results of facility tests organized by location, environmental risk type, and the remediation activities which may take place in the event of an actionable result. If you need more information about the environmental categories DGS tests for, please see the terminology glossary definitions listed below.
The dashboard uses color coding to identify satisfactory assessment (green), an optional remediation (blue), a required remediation (red), and a successfully completed remediation (dark green). If you have questions, please email [email protected].
As a result of the Public Facilities Environmental Safety Amendment Act of 2020, DGS conducts the following activities to meet requirements and keep the public informed.
DGS shall conduct lead testing of public recreational space surfaces (e.g., parks, dog parks, playgrounds, spray parks, athletic fields, etc.) composed of, in whole or in part, synthetic materials on a staggered, three-year cycle, using testing practices recommended by ASTM International (formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials) or a similar testing standards organization. That means each recreational space with synthetic surfaces is tested for lead every three years, at a minimum.
DGS shall also conduct environmental hazard studies of public buildings to identify risks across 17 categories on a staggered, 10-year cycle. That means that each building is tested every 10 years, at a minimum. The categories (defined below) to be tested include:
- Carbon monoxide
- Gas and diesel emissions
- Groundwater quality
- Indoor air quality
- Lead-based paint (LBP)
- Lead in drinking water (LiDW)
- Mold or Mildew
- Outdoor air quality
- Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs)
- Toxic chemicals and hazardous waste
- Use of pesticides
- Ventilation and temperature control
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
II. Community Outreach for Environmental Safety Testing at Public Facilities and Recreational Spaces
The Public Facilities Environmental Safety Amendment Act of 2020 establishes a requirement for communication to the community about environmental testing results and remediation. The steps below summarize DGS’s approach to public notification under the Amendment Act:
Within 24 hours of receiving test results above the allowable threshold at a public facility, DGS will:
- Isolate the area where the environmental risk is located until effective remediation occurs. At a recreational space which has actionable lead levels, that includes closure to the public.
- Keep the area closed until the environmental risk is remediated and a subsequent test determines that the risk is at or below published threshold levels.
Within 10 business days of receiving test results above the allowable threshold at a public facility, DGS will:
- Notify the advisory Neighborhood Commissioner who represents the Single Member District where the facility or recreation space is located and post on its website a notice that includes: potential environmental risks found, the result of the test for each of those risks, the threshold levels at which remediation measures will be taken, and the planned timeline for remediation.
- Repeat testing after remediation until environmental conditions do not exceed established threshold levels
- For recreation spaces only: Post signage at the facility or recreation space that includes the reason for the closure, planned remediation, and contact information for a DGS employee.
Within 20 business days of receiving test results above the allowable threshold at a public facility, DGS will:
- Coordinate with other relevant District agencies to conduct a community meeting to share testing procedure and results, the remediation process, potential health risks, and the anticipated re-opening date of the facility or recreation space.
By July 1 of each year, DGS will publish the following information:
- Any potential hazards identified at each site
- The testing methods employed to assess whether the conditions pose an environmental hazard
- The test results for each potential hazard identified
- The threshold levels at which remediation measures will be taken
- Any remediation measures taken
Asbestos: Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which was used in construction until it was banned in 1989. It can be released into the air during demolition, renovation, and/or building repair of buildings built before 1989.
Carbon monoxide: Carbon monoxide is released during combustion, the sources of which include furnaces, boilers, HVAC units, trucks, and other machinery. It is regulated by the EPA’s established National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
Dust: Dust particulates come from dirt, soot, smoke, chemicals, construction sites, fields, fires, and reactions between sulfur dioxide and nitrogen. The American National Standards Institute and other organizations provide guidelines to regulate these particles.
Gas and diesel emissions: Gas and diesel emissions come from internal combustion engines that convert fuel into mechanical power. That process can produce carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter.
Groundwater quality: Groundwater is separate from potable water and is not used for drinking water in Washington, DC. It is the category of water in waterways, the water table, and the environment in general.
Indoor air quality: Comprised of seven components including temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, particulates, and formaldehyde. Each component has its own threshold and is tested and addressed separately. DGS follows American National Standards Institute and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers guidelines to regulate those components.
Lead-based paint (LBP): Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal which was widely used in paint and other residential, industrial, and commercial applications. It was banned by the federal government for consumer product use (e.g., paint) in 1978 but may still be present in/on older buildings.
Lead in drinking water (LiDW): Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal which poses the highest risk to infants, young children, and pregnant people. One form of exposure is through drinking water. Lead is stored in the body’s bones and can be released later in life, causing adverse health effects.
Mold or Mildew: Mold and mildew are naturally occurring environmental components. Although their spores are generally harmless in dry and clean interior settings, they may begin to grow when exposed to damp and/or humid conditions.
Outdoor air quality: Comprised of six components including carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and particular matter (e.g., dust). Each component has its own threshold and is tested and addressed separately. The federal Clean Air Act mandates their regulation.
Pests: Pests are any organism, ranging from insects to rodents and reptiles that spread disease, cause destruction, or are otherwise a nuisance. Their presence in a facility can lead to a variety of health, safety, and cost concerns.
Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs): PCBs are a group of man-made chemicals that range in consistency from oil to a waxy solid. They were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications including motor oil, lighting, plastics, dyes, electrical equipment, and other things until they were banned in 1979.
Radon: Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that develops from the decay of uranium, which exists in small quantities in most rocks and soil. The EPA has determined that Washington, DC has a low potential for radon exposure although it can enter facilities from the soil, ground water, and air during periods of negative air pressure (e.g., when air enters buildings during the winter instead of being forced out of them).
Toxic chemicals and hazardous waste: Toxic chemicals and hazardous waste are any combination of solid, liquid, gaseous, or semisolid waste which, because of its quantity, concentration, or characteristics may contribute to serious or fatal hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, disposed of, or otherwise managed.
Use of pesticides: Pesticides are an efficient, cost-effective tool to control or eliminate pests but they pose a health and safety risk when improperly used or stored. Pesticides must be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Ventilation and temperature control: Good indoor air quality is maintained through adequate ventilation, filtration, and temperature control, most commonly provided by Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems. DGS follows American National Standards Institute and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers guidelines to regulate those components.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): VOCs are gases emitted into the air during the use of paints, cleaners, fuels, lubricants, and other things that evaporate or combust through their use. The EPA provides guidelines to regulate these particles.
Contact Mike McLaughlin at [email protected] if you have questions regarding the implementation of the Public Facilities Environmental Safety Amendment Act of 2020.
Related Information and Resources
- Public Facilities Environmental Safety Act Community Meetings
- ANC Notifications - Public Facilities Environmental Safety Amendment Act of 2020
- Get the Facts on Lead DME/OCA Letter
- Water Sampling Results for DC Parks & Recreation Facilities
- Water Sampling Results for DC Public Schools
- Interagency Working Group on Artificial Turf and Playgrounds 2020 PIP Playground Test Results
- Study on the Safety of Synthetic Materials Used in Construction at Public Recreational Spaces