Improving Ohio’s water quality has been a serious area of focus in the state legislature recently. There is no greater factor when it comes to public health than having clean and pure drinking water, so it is critical that we keep it safe for the 11.5 million Ohioans who depend on it.
Last year, the General Assembly passed and enacted legislation that took major steps toward protecting Lake Erie and the communities located near the lake from the toxic algal blooms that were so prominent in recent years.
This week, the Ohio House focused on another aspect of ensuring clean drinking water that has come to our attention regarding lead levels in certain parts of the state, as well as the timeframe for identification, treatment and notifying the public.
An incident in the eastern Ohio town of Sebring raised some red flags recently about the amount of time that is allowed for informing the public about high levels of lead in drinking water. Federal guidelines currently allow for up to 30 days to disclose to the public findings of lead contamination, a timeframe that seems inadequate for protecting public health. In an effort to address the issue statewide and to put in place a more timely and responsive system, Rep. Tim Ginter, who represents Columbiana County, sponsored House Bill 512.
The legislation reduces the timeframe for disclosing test results from the previously mentioned 30 days allowable by federal guidelines. If test results of a certain water source indicate unacceptable levels of lead, then the water systems operator would be required to notify homeowners within two business days. HB 512 also includes a provision that calls for system-wide educational information to be issued within 30 days, as opposed to the current 60 days under federal regulations.
An effort is also underway to help communities and schools fund improvement projects to address lead contamination through low-interest loans. Some of these upgrades might include conducting corrosion control studies or enhancing their treatment technologies.
Preserving our most important natural resource is an issue that cannot be taken lightly, and I believe recent reforms enacted over the past two years—and most recently this week in the Ohio House—will go a long way to keeping Ohioans safe when they turn on the faucet.