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New Legislation Aims To Alert Communities Faster When Lead Threat Emerges

Water bottles (Photo: Keoni Cabral/Flickr.com)
Water bottles (Photo: Keoni Cabral/Flickr.com)

By ideastream's Brian Bull

Recent lead contamination incidents in Flint, Michigan, and Seebring, Ohio, have prompted Ohio’s Democratic Senator to craft legislation aimed at alerting communities faster when lead exposure endangers their water supply.  

Sherrod Brown says he’s not only been alarmed by the unsafe water cases affecting families in Flint and Sebring, he’s troubled by the time government officials took to alert their constituents about the threat. 

In the case of Sebring, Brown says Ohio EPA and Sebring water system administrators knew of high lead levels in some homes’ water back in August 2015, but most residents didn’t learn of the issue until the Ohio EPA forced the notification five months later. 

Brown says he’s the primary sponsor of a bill being written with Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, that’ll expedite warnings.

“Families in Sebring – like in Flint – were left in the dark about the presence of lead in their water," says Brown. "Our bill would require the federal EPA to notify the public directly if there’s a danger of lead in the water system, and if the state has failed to do so within a much shorter period of time…15 days.  

"No more arguing about whose responsibility it is, while families continue drinking water that we know is not safe, no more finger pointing after the fact.” 

The bill also requires affected communities to have an action plan within six months, instead of 18 months, to address lead issues. It also calls for clean, safe water to be accessible to people in the meantime.  And it requires the EPA to post online annual water quality reports for every state.

Brown says he’ll introduce the bill sometime this week.