More Work Needed On EPA Water Testing Bill, Says Rep. Boccieri
Lawmaker believes county boards of health best equipped to test public drinking water for contamination

State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) today said more work is needed to correct the utter failure of both local and state water contamination reporting processes after lead found in Sebring’s drinking water caused a recent public health crisis. This afternoon, the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hear sponsor testimony on House Bill (HB) 512, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s mid-biennium review bill that attempts to improve these processes.

HB 512 maintains current law by leaving water testing and public notification authority in the hands of local water authorities in cases of lead contamination. The legislation shortens the public notification timeline to two days after the local water system receives test results showing contamination in the water. Rep. Boccieri argues that although a speedy notification process is critical, local water authorities are not primed and ready to provide such quick responses to a water contamination crisis due to the nature of their small size and limited budget.

“We have already seen the results of forcing small operations to perform broad-scale notifications once a public health crisis is determined,” said Boccieri. “Everyone supports timely notification when lead is found in water. However, the governor wants to require local water authorities to perform a task that his own EPA could not even accomplish. This is not a responsible plan to protect the health of Ohioans.”

Rep. Boccieri recently introduced House Bill 468, a separate measure to address Ohio’s inadequate water contamination reporting process. The Poland lawmaker’s legislation would place both water testing and public notification authority of lead contamination in the hands of local county boards of health, which are already experienced at testing private water sources.

“Local water authorities are often one-person shops and can’t possibly manage the full testing and notification effort on their own. This same process already left dozens of women and children in Sebring drinking contaminated water for months,” said Boccieri. “Every Ohioan has the right to turn on their tap and have clean, uncontaminated drinking water come out. We must take concrete steps to improve our water testing and notification procedures in order to protect the drinking water of all Ohioans.”

In addition to tackling public notification and water testing, HB 512 lowers the state’s lead standard, establishes reporting requirements for lead service lines and expands resources for infrastructure improvements and contamination containment. The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee convenes at 2:30 p.m. in the Statehouse this afternoon.

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