As the Flint, Michigan water crisis finally reaches media prominence, the small town of Sebring, Ohio is facing a similar plight after high levels of lead were found in the drinking water.
The town was notified of the danger on Thursday, although an official found high levels of lead in a few homes as far back as June, CBS Newsreports.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency warned the town’s administration at the end of November and is now currently investigating Water Superintendent James Bates on charges of falsifying documents regarding the problem. Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler requested the national EPA step in and revoke Bates’ license, and an emergency order has been instituted to bar him from working at the Sebring village water treatment plant.
Here's the Ohio EPA telling Sebring about lead problems (Dec 3). Residents weren't told for more than a month after pic.twitter.com/D8dTZfKu28
The EPA last week advised residents not to drink the water until further testing was completed.
As a result of the findings, schools were closed Friday, Monday, and Tuesday. The Sebring water system serves 8,100 homes and businesses within three communities in Mahoning County, notes the site.
Ohio EPA spokesman James Lee said the lead isn’t coming from the Mahoning River, where the village’s system gets its water. Instead, officials believe the problem stems from lead pipes in older homes and smaller distribution lines, the report says.
The Ohio EPA has ordered the village to maintain its advisory concerning the health risks of lead to children and pregnant women for a minimum of a year. Correspondence released Sunday by the Ohio EPA showed that it had been asking Bates for months when he would alert the public.
“We are working with Sebring water treatment plant to make adjustments to minimize leaching of lead into the water,” Lee said.
As officials blamed each other, Sebring Mayor J. Michael Pinkerton sought to assuage fears, answering questions from residents at a council meeting on Monday night.
Sebring Mayor J. Michael Pinkerton told residents that out of 40 homes tested in the village, seven were positive for lead. He says testing by the Ohio EPA shows that the lead is not coming from the town’s water distribution system.
“A lot of us have kids at home, we’re extremely afraid and we need a mayor to stand up, be honest with us, hold people accountable and fix this problem,” said one resident who spoke at the meeting.
One woman says her two-year-old son already tests high for lead exposure.
“He’s two, he doesn’t go anywhere else,” she said.
“It doesn’t mean it comes from the water ma’am,” responded the mayor as the crowd booed.
A total of 150 pallets of bottled water were sent to Sebring by the Mahoning County Health Department.
Free water being distributed at Sebring Community Center due to elevated lead levels for Sebring customers. pic.twitter.com/AxX7QYnrfy