SEBRING, Ohio — Jan. 23, 2016 — The town of Sebring in Ohio has closed schools and warned some residents not to drink the tap water after samples showed unsafe levels of lead, according to a press release.
The contamination follows the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which has focused national attention on water quality.
In response to lead leeching into Sebring’s water supply from residential piping, the town has made changes to its water treatment processes and the situation is improving: Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in the release that 25 of the 28 homes where water samples were taken are now below the federal allowable level.
The town will continue to test the water, provide bottled water or filtration systems to homes where results are over the federal guidelines, and work with the county to provide health screening for residents, noted the release. The state EPA is providing up to $25,000 in financial assistance to the town to provide filtration systems.
The agency is also taking steps to revoke the local water treatment operator’s license.
In a statement, the Ohio EPA claimed that Jim Bates, the current licensed operator, “is not properly performing his duties in a manner that is protective of public health.” Additionally, the agency said it has reason to suspect that the operator falsified reports. As a result, it has opened an investigation and is requesting assistance from U.S. EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division.
The Ohio EPA is also urging its federal counterpart to overhaul the regulations on lead contamination, stated the release.
“I believe federal rules regarding lead in drinking water are overly complicated, not easy to understand and not protective of human health,” said Ohio EPA director Craig W. Butler in the release. “Following the federal rules has led to internal protocols that are inconsistent with other drinking water protocols. Ohio EPA is calling for U.S. EPA to immediately overhaul its lead regulations.”
Butler continued: “We are in the process of developing new protocols and appropriate personnel actions to ensure that our field staff takes action when it appears that a water system is not complying and taking their review seriously.”
You can find the entire release here.