More drinking fountains turned off in Sebring

Water fountain generic

SEBRING, Ohio (WKBN) – Following a meeting Wednesday between the Sebring Village Council, state and county health departments and the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that the Ohio Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency have different levels of acceptance when it comes to traces of lead found in some of the drinking fountains at Sebring schools.

The Ohio Department of Health changed their guidelines for an acceptable level from 15 parts per billion to 5. The federal guideline is 15 parts per billion.

The health department’s guidelines are prompting school officials to shut down 22 more fountains in the Sebring schools. Previously, only two were marked following tests that found elevated lead levels. Those fountains are located at McKinley Senior/Junior High School. In addition, one faucet in a bathroom is shut off.

Replacement of those fountains could cost thousands, which the district doesn’t have.

“We don’t have a plumber on staff. If we could maybe get some plumbers to come in , pull our fountains off, so we can get a water sample,” Viscounte said.

The need for more bottled water at the school is also causing concern, along with the mounting expense for the district as it works to handle the water crisis.

A water advisory was issued for residents of Sebring on Thursday, 21, following findings that there were unacceptable levels of lead in the drinking water.

Complete Coverage of the Water Crisis in Sebring

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.

Village Water Superintendent James Bates is under investigation by the criminal branch of the Environmental Protection Agency and has been put on administrative leave. His license to operate the water system has been revoked, pending the investigation.

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