Sebring, Ohio, Lead Poisoning Emergency Could Result In Criminal Charges

Lead poisoning has struck again, this time in Sebring, Ohio, according to the state environmental protection agency. As Flint, Michigan, continues the fight to get clean drinking water and to have their health issue dealt with, a similar battle appears to be brewing in the Buckeye State.

The Sebring, Ohio, water treatment plant operator has been accused to falsifying reports about lead levels, according to Ohio EPA investigators. Water quality testing conducted in the small Ohio village revealed that 28 homes in the had elevated lead levels. Schools have been closed in the town for safety reasons as additional testing is conducted, MSN reports. Exactly how long lead has been leaking from water pipes in the town remains unknown.

The Ohio branch of the EPA has asked staffers from the federal agency to launch a criminal investigation into the actions of the Sebring water treatment plant operator. The agency said in a statement it has “reason to suspect that the operator falsified reports,” and has asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s criminal division for help with the investigation, CBS News reports.

The Ohio EPA has not yet stated publicly the details or dates of any of the Sebring water treatment plant reports, which may have been falsified. The state agency issued a notice to Sebring residents alerting them that water treatment plant officials has neglected to “properly notify” customers about the leaking pipes and has repeatedly failed to give residents accurate information about the problem in a “timely” manner.

Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler had this to say about the Sebring lead levels problem.

“It has become apparent that our field office was too patient in dealing with the village of Sebring’s ‘cat and mouse’ game and should have had closer scrutiny on the water system meeting its deadlines. 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.”

Why the Ohio EPA chose now to lose patience with the Sebring “cat and mouse game” may have something to do with the backlash and possible litigation their Michigan counterpart is facing over the Flint water crisis.

A host of local, state, and federal agencies have come under fire for the handling of the Flint lead poisoning crisis. Flint residents, who say they and their children have experienced ill health effects and have sustained damage to the water pipes inside their homes, may be filing a lawsuit to help relieve the financial burden created by the lead poisoning emergency in the Michigan city.

In the Ohio village of about 4,000 people, the state environmental agency has already ordered Sebring officials to change the way water is treated in an effort to reduce corrosion and by extension increased levels of lead. The water safety advisory will not be lifted in the village until at least two rounds of “lead-free sampling” has occurred over a six month period. On Sunday, both children and pregnant women in Sebring had their blood tested for high lead levels. Just like in Flint, Sebring residents are now being given water filtration systems for their faucets and bottled water.

Lead poisoning can cause long-term, or perhaps lifetime, health issues for anyone, but children are especially vulnerable to such exposure. Irreversible cognitive and brain development can occur due to extended exposure to lead. Other potential health effects are possible, which could develop include stunted growth, aggressive behavior, and decreased intelligence.

What do you think about the Sebring lead poisoning problem and the ongoing Flint water crisis? Are you concerned about the safety of your drinking water?

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