News Briefs: Sebring, Ohio, Operator Denies Falsifying Reports

In this week's water and wastewater news, an Ohio town discovers lead contamination, Flint could face financial crisis, and Pittsburgh announces a treatment change to tackle lead problems
News Briefs: Sebring, Ohio, Operator Denies Falsifying Reports

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A small-system water operator in Sebring, Ohio, has denied misleading the public about unsafe lead levels in the town’s drinking water. According to an AP report, James Bates, the plant superintendent, says claims that he falsified reports are a “downright lie.”

Classes were canceled at Sebring Schools after a test revealed high lead levels in one drinking fountain, and on Thursday night, the city manager issued an advisory saying children and pregnant women shouldn’t drink water from the village system. Testing showed high lead and copper levels in seven of the 20 homes where water is routinely tested.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Craig Butler has asked the U.S. EPA to open a criminal investigation against Bates. The Ohio EPA is also taking steps to revoke Bates’ license.

In a CBS News article, the Ohio EPA said Bates “is not properly performing his duties in a manner that is protective of public health.” The agency claims Bates should have notified the public about the contamination much sooner.

According to James Lee, a representative from the Ohio EPA, the lead is coming from small distribution lines and possibly old homes with lead pipes.

Source: Sandusky Register, CBS News

Could Flint Water Utility Run Out of Money?

As a water crisis continues in Flint, Michigan, city officials are now worried a financial crisis will soon follow. Because of the lead-contaminated water, residents have been refusing to pay for the water service, which is leaving the city in a “very precarious situation,” according to Flint officials.

“This is an imminent concern,” said City Administrator Natasha Henderson to city council members, stating the city water fund could be depleted by December.

In a city already faced with financial hardship, the water crisis that began as a way to cut expenses is now causing even more fiscal headache.

“That has a tremendous impact on the city’s ability to be fiscally sustainable,” Henderson said in an article.

Dozens of people have been protesting in front of the Flint City Hall, claiming they shouldn't have to pay for water services.


Pittsburgh Switches to New Lead-Fighting Chemical

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is switching from caustic soda to soda ash in an effort to decrease lead contamination in its system. According to a Pittsburgh Post Gazette article, officials say the decision correlates — but was not caused by — the Flint, Michigan, water crisis.

“We’re using the public water supply to prevent (lead) leaching from people’s private plumbing,” says James Good, PSWA executive director.

PWSA reports show an increase in lead from 2 ppb in 1999 to 14.7 ppb in 2013. Of the 37 water systems in Allegheny County, 10 reported lead levels greater than 1 ppb and five reported results between 0 and 1 ppb. For PWSA, the number of sites with levels above the EPA action level increased from zero in 1999 to five in 2013-14.

“I think this is a good opportunity for people to understand the water systems of Allegheny County have been using the same sources for a very long time, and they are comfortable treating those to meet rules and regulations,” said John Jeffries, supervisor of the county health department’s Public Drinking Water & Waste Management Program in the Post-Gazette article. “They’ve always taken this very seriously, but everyone is looking a little harder now (after Flint), and people should.”

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 


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