Sebring, Ohio (DailyHaze) – The past few weeks Flint, Michigan has made headlines and angered an entire nation with the realization that the water is highly contaminated and corrosive, leading to the sickness and even deaths of citizens that have ingested it. Today, we learn that Flint isn’t the only place to have this problem.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has issued an emergency order in Sebring, Ohio and have placed water superintendent James Bates on administrative leave, pending a probe into his involvement in failing to notify the public for several months, and possibly falsifying water test reports.
In a statement on Monday, Ohio EPA director Craig Butler made it clear that his agency fully intends to revoke Bates license for endangering the public and for filing “misleading, inaccurate or false reports.” He has also requested that the U.S. EPA to open a criminal investigation into the situation.
Water systems are required by federal regulation to notify the pubic immediately when high levels of lead are found. These notifications were not made until January 22 when Sebring village manager Richard Giroux issued a public notice that children and pregnant women should refrain from drinking the water. According to a statement by Sebring officials, the Ohio EPA had been requesting Bates to alert the public for several months.
This scandal comes at the edge of Flint, Mi with a similar lead content issue, where treatment plant workers failed to treat the water properly to prevent it from corroding the pipes which caused extremely high lead levels throughout the city.
Officials state the water in Sebrings plant is safe. Giroux said in a statement on Friday that the pipes in 7 of 20 older homes had tested for high levels of both lead and copper because the acidic water leached the metals in the pipes.
Regardless, it appears as though Sebring isn’t taking any chances. Public schools were closed on Friday, and they trucked in 150 pallets of bottled water for its residents. The county health department is set up to conduct lead screenings at the elementary school.
No criminal charges have been filed against Bates at this time, but state officials are making it clear that if during the course of the investigation, they discover that he did falsify reports, he most certainly will be arrested.
“The games the Village of Sebring was playing by giving us incomplete data time and time again, and not submitting the required documents, made it difficult for our field office to determine whether or not they had notified their customers,” said Heidi Griesmer, an Ohio EPA representative. Written By: Heather Miles