Fallout from Sebring water crisis continues

Elevated levels of lead were found in the water in Sebring in August but not made public until January

richard giroux sebring ohio
Sebring Village Manager Richard Giroux

SEBRING, Ohio (WKBN) – Sebring’s village manager won’t talk publicly about disciplinary action taken against three Ohio Environmental Protection Agency workers, but he said he wishes they would have been more direct about the severity of Sebring’s water problem when it was first discovered.

On Wednesday, Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler said his staff dropped the ball when it didn’t warn local leaders about lead in Sebring’s water in December.

The investigation began after Butler learned that Sebring had failed to properly notify its customers of lead levels in certain homes and “repeatedly failed to provide timely and accurate information” to the Agency’s field office.

As a result two EPA employees of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency have been terminated and one has been demoted due to the Sebring water crisis.

The employees were fired from the Ohio EPA’s Columbus and Twinsburg offices following an internal administrative review, the Ohio EPA announced Wednesday.

Sebring Village Manager Richard Giroux said it wasn’t clear that there was a problem with Sebring’s water until last month’s announcement from EPA that there really was an emergency.

“If anybody reads that, you will look at it and say, “OK, this is a technical adjustment to the plant.’ Do what you need to do and submit your reports,” he said.

Giroux said Sebring is making “excellent progress” in meeting state requirements concerning testing and treating the local water system, as well as notifying customers when readings come back higher than they should.

“Huge progress, all that’s been done. We have met every demand and every deadline that EPA has given us. All that has been confirmed by EPA, so we’re completely up to speed,” he said.

He said there continues to be some confusion after the Ohio EPA sent another citation to Sebring on February 9 for requirements that didn’t have to be in place until the February 12.

“You’re in violation three days prior to your deadline to be in violation,” he said.

For now, Giroux hopes changes planned for the system, along with a controlled purging of the water lines, could resolve the lead issues for good in the next three weeks and things can get back to normal.

“My main focus is to correct Sebring’s problem and bringing the system back to normal,” he said.

In light recent developments, Mahoning County Commissioners say they are working diligently to assist Sebring. They said the state isn’t helping the local community as much as it could.

“They continue to not help the infrastructure of local communities, but they continue to take money from local government, so it’s really a revolving door. It’s a sad situation, and we have to find an answer to rectify the problem,” said Commissioner David Ditzler.

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