Ohio EPA, Sebring officials dispute notice of high lead water levels

Test results for several households in Sebring showed elevated lead levels.

SEBRING, Ohio -- Stacks of bottled water, shipped in by the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, sit piled up at the Sebring Community Center, as high as many of the people there are tall.

Everyone in Sebring, a small town about 70 miles southeast of Cleveland, is being warned not to drink the tap water, after some samples from homes turned up unsafe levels of lead.

Now the big question is: How long did the Ohio EPA and Sebring city leaders know before residents did?

City Manager, Richard Giroux says, "The first the notifications were discussed with the EPA and my staff was (Thursday) morning."

But not so, says Heidi Griesmer, deputy director of communications for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The Ohio EPA listed a Dec 3, 2015 lead advisory warning for Sebring on their online advisory list and sent a letter to Giroux dated Dec 3.

On Friday, Griesmer told WKYC Channel 3 News that "While the Village of Sebring has a clean drinking water source, it is apparent from their recent tests that lead is seeping into the drinking water of certain homes. The village needed to take some steps to address this issue and alert its customers, and when this didn’t occur, we issued them a notice of violation."

Residents just learned that  seven of 40 homes tested turned up lead levels higher than EPA standards. Restaurants stopped serving water. Schools were closed Friday as a precaution.

RELATED |  Ohio EPA current drinking water advisories

Crystal Miller has four kids.. Her 1-year-old was drinking formula prepared with tap water through November.

"But they knew for a month of this and none of us knew about it? And all the precautions we could have taken for the kids? Kind of irritating if your parent," says Miller.

Ohio state Rep. John Boccieri sent a letter to the Ohio EPA, asking for answers.

RELATED |  Lawmakers question EPA on Sebring water issue

"We want to know where the ball got dropped. Was it at the local level or the state EPA, in terms of expeditiously notifying people here in the community?" said Boccieri.

Giroux says results are expected soon from 20 more tests that were done on Friday, as well as re-testing of the seven sites that turned up too much lead.

 


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