Sebring Water: Ohio Town Becomes Second In The United States With Lead In Water Supply

The citizens of Sebring, Ohio, are furious over the fact that lead was discovered in the water in their town last summer. The anger in Sebring is due to the fact that they were not told of the problem after the testing was completed. The people of Sebring no longer trust their water supply or their local government, paralleling the fear and rage that is occurring in Flint, Michigan. Because of the lead discovery, children are undergoing testing for lead, and schools have been closed for the last three days. Nina McIlvain is a resident of Sebring. She commented on the latest lead water crisis.

“How long has this been going on and how much did we drink it? I’m sure there’s more to it than we know.”

The testing for lead took place at seven homes in Sebring last summer. These homes are the ones that are routinely tested to make sure the water is still safe for consumption. According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the residents were supposed to be notified within 60 days of the test if a problem was discovered. The people of Sebring were not notified. Not only were they not notified, but it has no been discovered that the manager of the water plant in Sebring had falsified data and reports of the lead testing. James Bates is the water plant manager, and he claims that what the OEPA is saying is an “outright lie.”

Bates is no stranger to investigations. It is stated that the EPA was looking at Bates for being in violation of the state rules for many years. It is also claimed that Bates does not run the water plant in a manner that prioritizes the safety of the people whose water he is tasked at keeping clean. These statements were made after an investigation by the Associated Press in 2009. Bates is not the only one in Sebring who is culpable of lying about the water.

Village Manager Richard Giroux claims that he had no knowledge of the tests that showed lead in the water in Sebring. The OEPA state that Giroux was told in December about the water issue. A meeting took place on Monday in order to determine the next course of action that would be taken in Sebring. The meeting was filled to capacity.

The cause of the lead water is speculated to be from water that became corrosive enough to eat the lead off of the water pipes. The water plant was told to treat the water to reduce the corrosive effect it was having on the lead pipes. A new round of testing has showed that the lead water in Sebring is going away. Only one of the houses that was tested last summer shows increased levels of lead. Ohio EPA spokeswoman Heidi Griesmer commented on the new tests.

“That tells us what the village is doing to treat the water is starting to work”

The Ohio EPA wants to have a criminal investigation opened against James Bates due to providing false information on his reports. His license has been suspended, and he has been suspended from working in the other water plants that he services.

Schools in Sebring will open on Wednesday, but water fountains will not be turned on yet.

Will the people of Sebring ever regain enough trust in their leadership? Will another town join the list with Flint and Sebring in finding out that their water has been contaminated while they were kept in the dark?

[Image Via Sarah Rice/Getty Images]