Excessive Lead in Drinking Water Spread to Ohio

Learning from the mishaps shown by state regulatory agencies in Michigan, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency wasted no time in beginning a criminal investigation resulting from reports of concentrations of high lead levels in some Ohio homes.

2 minute read

January 27, 2016, 10:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Heightened awareness of the dangers posed by lead poisoning, its irreversible nature and danger posed to pregnant women and young children, may have contributed to the crackdown by the state Environmental Protection Agency on the village drinking water supplier to the Village of Sebring (2010 population: 4,420), where the director is suspected of falsifying readings of lead and copper.

"On Sunday, state EPA director Craig Butler announced that the Ohio EPA is opening a criminal investigation and is taking steps to revoke the license of Sebring Village water treatment operator Jim Bates for allegedly not properly performing his duties in a manner that is protective to public health," reports WFMJ-TV in northeast Ohio. Last Thursday, Jan. 21, the state EPA learned "that water sampled from several homes had tested for higher than acceptable levels of lead."

However, the TV station reports that the Sebring water operator denies falsifying reports. 

Ohio EPA confirms that the source of the drinking water is free of lead. Like the case in Flint, Michigan, the lead is coming from corrosion of pipes. Unlike Flint, the contamination is not widespread. After much testing by the state EPA, only three homes and one school water fountain were found to have high lead levels according to a Jan. 24 press release.

“While the water system has a clean water source and supply, it is still unacceptable that a few individual homes are experiencing corrosion that is causing high levels of lead,” said Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler.

Drinking water advisory issued per press release:

According to Ohio EPA, the village will not be able to lift its drinking water advisory for pregnant women and children until they receive two rounds of successful sampling events in consecutive six-month periods. In addition, the village will be required to provide individual tests upon request by its residents

WFMJ adds that "five people who use Sebring water have tested positive for elevated levels of lead (and that) Sebring School officials say classes will be cancelled on Tuesday."

Perhaps learning from the predicament of Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, "Governor John Kasich's office issued a statement saying he supports the Ohio EPA's work to 'force the village to get serious about taking corrective action, including removing their water treatment plant operator'," notes WFMJ.

A video on lead in drinking water accompanying a CNN article discusses the role of home plumbing in lead levels, particularly for homes built prior to 1997.

The CBS/AP article indicates that copper levels exceeding U.S. EPA levels have also been found in drinking water samples in Sebring.

Monday, January 25, 2016 in WFMJ-TV

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