EPA Adopts Boccieri's Proposal For Lead Contamination Coordination
Lawmaker says public health crisis response plan should be state law
February 16, 2017
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In updated rules that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) released last September, the agency quietly included a proposal from state Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) for greater inter-agency coordination in the event of drinking water contamination. The Poland lawmaker originally offered the coordination concept as an amendment to House Bill 512 in the 131st General Assembly. 

“I have always believed that local boards of health and EMA’s can respond more quickly to a local public health crisis rather than a state worker in a cubicle in Columbus,” said Boccieri. “Timely coordination among the agencies who already have boots on the ground and know the community is critical to effectively responding to incidences of lead-contaminated water.” 

House Bill 512, legislation passed last May to update standards for water testing and public notification, required timely notification requirements but did not mandate coordination between local and state-level entities when cases of lead contamination present a public health crisis.  

During deliberations on HB 512, Rep. Boccieri unsuccessfully offered an amendment requiring local health departments and county emergency management agencies (EMAs) to jointly establish a written plan of action for public notification of water contamination, after EPA plan approval. 

The OEPA decided to incorporate the coordination concept in its contingency plan rules for water systems while updating the agency’s official guidance documents, as is required every five years. The final contingency rule language requires water systems to notify local health departments, EMAs and OEPA of any water contamination emergency. 

“I believe the legislature should pass a state law to affirm inter-agency coordination so that every available resource, at every level of government, can be mobilized during a public health crisis,” said Boccieri. “Ultimately, state law requires the OEPA to manage lead reduction efforts, so the state needs to fulfill its obligation to dedicate adequate resources to keep our communities safe from contaminated drinking water.” 

Both the Emergency Management Association of Ohio and the Ohio Health Boards Association supported Rep. Boccieri’s amendment when he offered it last year

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