Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ohio Legislature Wants Two-Day Alerts for Lead Contamination Instead of Current 60-Day Window

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2016 at 3:34 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Ildar Sagdejev via Wikimedia Commons
In the wake of serious lead water contamination scandals in Flint, Michigan and Northeast Ohio's own Sebring, lawmakers down in Columbus are attempting to rewire the state's process for raising red alerts for bad water.

Under a new proposal sailing through the state house, water providers will have to tell residents earlier about contamination — a proposition that's facing pushback from your public H20 providers. 

In late April, Bill 512 hit the house. The proposal was introduced by Salem Republican Tim Ginter, with principal backing from Dover Republican Al Landis and Youngstown Democrat Michele Lepore-Hagan — so we're talking about a bipartisan effort. Under the bill, public water providers would have two business days to alert residents when water lead levels spike over the federally determined limits of 15 parts per billion. Currently, under federal law, water companies have two months to disclose the contamination. 

"Our state has learned firsthand that the time is too long,” Ginter told Columbus' WKBN when the the bill was introduced. 

Ginter is no doubt referring to Sebring, where news first broke about lead contamination last January. Later, it was revealed that the state EPA had raised concerns about the water levels as early as the previous November. Although the state ordered Sebring to notify residents about the lead levels — which were reaching 21 parts per billion in some areas — the city government failed to do so at the time. 

The push is part of a concerted effort with Governor John Kasich's administration. According to the Dayton Daily News, Ohio's Environmental Protection Agency's top man Craig Butler is also putting his weight behind a tighter notification window. "Lead is different for us," he told the paper. "It has such an acute health impact that we want people to know when it's detected."

The water industry, however, says the proposals under the bill aren't realistic. "The two business day reporting limit is not a health or science based limit," Tyler Converse, chairman of the Ohio Water Utility Council, told the Dayton paper. 

Those concerns didn't make much of an impact in the house. Bill 512 sailed through the house with a vote of 96 yeas and zero nays. A piece of companion legislation was introduced to the Ohio Senate on May 12th. A vote there is expected soon. 

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