Ohio water quality bill could prevent another Sebring crisis

The Ohio House in Columbus had its first hearing on the bill Tuesday afternoon

Craig Butler, Ohio EPA director, testifies about a new water quality bill in Columbus.
Craig Butler, Ohio EPA director, testifies about a new water quality bill in Columbus.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WYTV) – Ohio lawmakers are considering a bill that could prevent lead water crises like the one that occurred in Sebring.

Ohio EPA director Craig Butler testified about the new water quality bill in front of the House Energy and Natural Resources committee on Tuesday afternoon.

House Bill 512 would set up rules for lead and copper testing for community water systems and earmark money to detect and remove harmful plumbing.

The new laws would require local water system operators to notify homeowners about high lead levels within two business days. Currently, operators have one to two months to notify the public. The bill would also punish operators that do not follow the law.

“Our state has learned firsthand that the time is too long,” said Representative Tim Ginter (R-Salem), who introduced the bill last week.

One of the big problems in Sebring was that it took almost four months for government workers to tell the public there was too much lead in their water.

“Sebring was a wake-up call to us,” Ginter said. “It certainly helped to seal the fact that there needs to be reasonable reforms.”

There is still a lot of work to be done at the Ohio Statehouse before a new lead notification law would take effect.

Representative John Boccieri, who represents Sebring, also introduced a different bill regarding who should notify the public about high lead levels. Boccieri and Ginter are hoping to meet this week to take elements from both and send one bill to the House for a vote.

“There’s just too much red tape in this process. My argument is that we already have an apparatus set up with the local county boards of health to make timely notifications. They already have an apparatus to do this very quickly,” Boccieri said.

Whichever bill moves forward, it would provide money for schools to replace water fountains if they find contamination.

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