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State EPA Proposes Overhaul Of Rules For Tainted Drinking Water

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The Ohio EPA is proposing an overhaul of how the state and cities deal with lead in drinking water, including speeding up public notifications. The plan, obtained by the Associated Press, gives municipal water systems two days to alert residents when lead levels are above federal limits. The proposal requires the Ohio EPA to step in and alert residents if local authorities wait too long. It also would force labs that test drinking water to complete their work and give the results to public water systems within 30 days. Current federal rules call for homeowners where the individual tests are conducted to be notified within 30 days. Notices for all other residents must be issued within 60 days when the entire system exceeds lead limits. The proposal also includes a plan to help cities map out and remove lead pipes, and to work with schools on replacing drinking fountains and faucets that have lead parts. Cities also could apply for already existing funding to add corrosion controls to prevent pipes from leaching lead into water. The changes have been in the works since January, after elevated lead levels were detected in drinking water in the village of Sebring. The agency says it became apparent federal testing and notification rules fall short of the public’s expectations. The agency is asking members of Ohio’s congressional delegation for a re-evaluation of testing methods set by the federal EPA. That agency has said it is reviewing the rules, but it will take at least one year before changes are made. Ohio officials call the proposal a short-term solution that will address immediate needs. The state EPA says the operator of Sebring’s water plant waited months to notify the public about high lead readings. Two Ohio EPA employees were fired for their handling of the situation.

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