COLUMBUS, Ohio (WYTV) – House Bill 512, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s mid-biennium review legislation, passed in the Ohio House of Representatives on Wednesday.
The legislation follows the Sebring water crisis, in which records revealed that the Ohio EPA failed to notify Sebring residents that area water had higher-than-normal levels of lead for almost five months.
State Rep. Sean J. O’Brien (D-Bazetta) voted in favor of HB 512, saying that it is important to ensure children and families are safe from toxic drinking water.
“Though this legislation could certainly go further to tighten reporting requirements, and encourage inter-agency cooperation, I am pleased we were able to take this first step in the right direction today,” he said in a statement released Wednesday.
Democratic lawmakers sought to strengthen the bill by allowing local health departments, local Emergency Management Agencies and water systems to create a joint response plan for public notification of contaminated water, but the measure was rejected, according to O’Brien. Democratic lawmakers also proposed tightening public reporting requirements in the event of water contamination.
Under the bill, municipal wastewater treatment facilities will now have greater access to the Water Pollution Control Loan Fund at the state level. Repayment terms to the state pollution control fund will also be more agreeable to local entities, with repayment schedules being extended from 20 years to 30 years, and in some cases 45 years, according to a news release from O’Brien’s office.
O’Brien said taxpayers could benefit from an extended repayment schedule in the local “Blueprint to Prosperity – Water Line Initiative” in northern Trumbull County.
HB 512 now goes to the Senate for further consideration.