SEBRING, Ohio (WKBN) – Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Congressman Tim Ryan, D-Niles, announced a $400,000 grant Monday to help the village of Sebring cover the cost of its lead crisis earlier this year.
The money will help the village cover the $70,000 spent on testing and bottled water for village homes after dangerously high lead levels were found in several houses. Although those test results were taken in the summer of 2015, village residents were not notified until several months later.
The rest of the money, coming from a special fund in the USDA, will pay for new technology that will monitor pH levels in the Sebring water plant. That system will add chemicals automatically to prevent future lead leaching conditions.
“This should be an important early warning system for the Sebring Water Department and the residents,” said Tony Logan, U.S. Department of Agriculture. “It closely monitors the water at the plant and changes the PH level if it looks like it could cause lead migration in the pipes of households.”
Last summer, PH levels in water at the plant dipped so low that the water started eating away at lead-soldered pipes. That sent lead into the faucets and bathtubs of older homes all around the village. The EPA warned people to stop drinking their water until it could be tested. Contaminated water was also found at area schools.
The problem became a public health crisis and drinking water was passed out for weeks and dozens of pregnant women and children were tested for lead poisoning.
“That is why we are able to get the money, and why we are able to get it relatively quickly, so that people here can be certain their small children and their pregnant wife of mother can be safe,” Brown said.
Brown says the lead problem that happened in Sebring could happen anywhere, and he’s calling for new regulations on testing and warning water customers.
Congressman Tim Ryan says it’s time to find ways to replace aging infrastructure, saying there are more problems waiting in the future.
“Roads, bridges, water and sewer, into the future are only going to cost us more money, more ill-health, more kids that get lead poisoning and on and on,” Ryan said. “We’ve got to suck it up and reinvest back into the country, and we’ve got to find the resources available to do that.”