COLUMBUS — Legislation that would require quicker public notice of lead issues in drinking water had a first hearing in the Ohio Senate April 12th.
SB 269 probably won’t be the ultimate vehicle to accomplish the task, however, as a comparable package of law changes was announced late last month by Gov. John Kasich.
Still, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) used Tuesday’s hearing before the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee to spotlight the issues involved and urge passage.
“Many of the provisions outlined in Gov. Kasich’s proposal are identical to what is contained in SB 269, such as the shortening of the public notification timeline and triggers for additional testing,” Schiavoni said, adding later, “The timeframe issue of getting that notifcation out there to residents is really, really important… That was the real problem in Sebring is that the locals knew, Ohio EPA knew but the people drinking the water didn’t know. At the end of the day, if we can solve that problem, whether it comes from the [governor’s bill] or this bill it doesn’t matter.”
Among other provisions, Schiavoni’s bill would require public water systems to notify the Ohio EPA within 24 hours of detecting lead contamination in drinking water, with additional public notice completed within 30 days.
Also, state regulators could step in to notify residents and conduct additional testing if local agencies fail to act.
The legislation was prompted, in part, by the discovery of elevated lead levels in drinking water systems in Sebring in Mahoning County.
“The most troubling part about the Sebring water crisis is the fact that elevated lead levels were first discovered in October 2015 but the public had not been properly notified until almost four months after the fact due to missteps by local water officials,” Schiavoni said. “The Ohio EPA had also failed to intervene.”
He added later, “This bill would change requirements for both local and Ohio EPA officials to ensure that what happened in Sebring does not occur again.”

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.