Latest EPA tests: 2 locations above lead limit in Sebring

WKBN spoke to Dr. Colleen McClean, assistant professor of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Youngstown State University, about how high levels of lead were found in Sebring water.

SEBRING, Ohio (WKBN) – Test results released Tuesday by the Ohio EPA show that 121 of 123 water samples taken at locations across the Sebring School District are below the federal government’s allowable lead levels.

The release states that two locations at McKinley Junior/Senior High School had lead levels above the federal allowable limit. Those locations were at water fountains in the building, not the water that was coming into the building, according to the release.

Sebring Superintendent Toni Viscounte admits the results weren’t quite what she was hoping for.

“They aren’t horrible, but it’s, even a trace, it’s not good,” Viscounte said.

No locations at West Branch Middle School had any detection of lead, and 15 locations at BL Elementary School had levels of lead below the allowable limit.

Second-round testing results

Some older drinking water fountains, some of which have been recalled, have been shown to be problematic due to internal parts containing lead, the release stated. The Ohio EPA says it has provided this information to the Mahoning County director of public health and the superintendent of schools so they can determine when schools will open and take any precautionary measures that may be appropriate.

Both Sebring and West Branch Schools will re-open Wednesday. Tuesday, officials blocked off the two problem water fountains so that no one would use them Wednesday.

investigators are still collecting samples, working to localize the source of the contamination, whether it’s the drinking fountains themselves, or water lines supplying them.

Initial testing last week showed that out of 15 water samples from the schools, only one water fountain from McKinley Junior and Senior High School had a higher than allowable level of lead. Additional samples were taken Sunday night at McKinley Junior and Senior High and BL Elementary.

Classes are canceled Tuesday at all Sebring schools. West Branch Middle and High Schools, along with the preschool, are also closed Tuesday because their water is supplied by Sebring. The elementary schools remain open because they have well water.

Initial water samples taken from 28 homes in Sebring show three of them were above the federal allowable level. The drinking water advisory cannot be lifted for the village until the EPA receives two rounds of successful sampling events in consecutive six-month periods.

The Mahoning County District Board of Health held a lead blood testing clinic on Sunday night. Five of those tested had elevated levels of lead in their blood, but it is unknown whether that could be attributed to the water or another source.

The lead problems were not found in the water plant, but the water was found to be slightly acidic and that may be causing lead from older pipes to leach into the water, raising lead levels.

WKBN has had complete coverage of the Sebring water crisis, including:

  • An interview with the superintendent of Sebring Schools, who told us she’s working to put a plan together for students so they don’t miss out on time in the classroom while schools are shut down.
  • Monday night, we were live at the Sebring Council Meeting, where angry neighbors demanded answers from their elected officials.
    Council members said they found out about the lead the same day all the other neighbors did.
  • Monday on First News at Noon, we were the first station in the Valley to bring you the news that Water Superintendent Jim Bates had been placed on administrative leave, after the EPA suspended his license.

For a complete rundown of WKBN’s triple-team coverage, check out our special section.


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