Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) introduced legislation to strengthen and clarify the public notification responsibilities of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. S.B. 269 would require Ohio EPA and local water systems to alert the public much sooner when contaminants are found in drinking water.

“There were a series of missteps leading to the Sebring water crisis. But the failure to notify the public in a timely manner is one we need to fix immediately,” said Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni. “Ohioans need to be sure they can trust the Ohio EPA and their local water systems to promptly alert us to potential health hazards in our water.”

Senator Schiavoni’s bill addresses the failure of both Ohio EPA and the village of Sebring to alert the community after tests revealed elevated levels of lead in local drinking water.

The bill will:

  • Require Ohio EPA - within 5 days of a local water system failing to meet any public notice or education requirements – to assume responsibility for and directly make such public notice and education efforts.
  • Require a local water system to notify Ohio EPA of a possible lead contamination issue within 24 hours
  • Shorten the current 60-day timeline for public notice and education of test results that exceed guidelines to no more than 30 days.
  • Require Ohio EPA - at the time it takes over any public education and notice requirements - to assign staff to the community and water system who will have the responsibility of ensuring compliance with applicable regulations.
  • Require Ohio EPA to establish by rule that all water systems must file an updated corrosion control plan and revert to a 6 month testing cycle any time:
    • A system switches a source from which water is received
    • A system makes major renovations or repairs to any water treatment plant or system
    • Any other events that have a probability of impacting the quality or corrosivity of water within the system
    • A water system can return to annual testing only after at least two tests come back without an elevated level as called for in rule.

In the wake of the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, there have been several reports of elevated lead levels in drinking water in Ohio homes and buildings. Last summer, a test of a home in Warren found lead levels at 64 parts per billion (ppb), far higher than the government action level of 15 ppb. While the homeowner was notified of this issue, the broader community was not. Under SB 269, local water systems would be required to alert the Ohio EPA if any tests results were abnormal.

“I am shocked by the recent news of the lead levels in Warren. It is our responsibility to protect the health and well-being of our citizens,” said Senator Capri S. Cafaro (D-Hubbard). “We need to be asking for more from the Ohio EPA. This bill will be an important step to ensuring there is accountability and protection for all Ohioans.”

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