Published: January 28, 2016

    Potential Lead Poisoning in Sebring, Ohio

    Corroded pipes release harmful levels of lead into public drinking water. Charges of willful negligence leveled at those in charge. The future health of growing children in doubt.

    It sounds like we’re talking about the water crisis affecting Flint, Michigan, but these ominous statements also apply to Sebring, Ohio. On 3 December, 2015, the Ohio environmental protection agency issued a warning about potential lead exposure in the small village of 4,000. Initial tests revealed elevated lead levels in the water of 28 homes and a local school.

    The lead levels alone are cause for concern. The situation is made worse by allegations the water operator falsified reports. In January, 2016, the Ohio EPA asked for help from the federal EPA’s criminal division, claiming the operator failed to “properly notify its customers” and did not provide “timely and accurate information” to the EPA field office. The operator’s unwillingness to cooperate with agency officials lead to a “cat and mouse” game, according to Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler.

    It remains unclear how long Sebring residents were exposed to lead, but the Ohio EPA is taking action. Changes to water treatment is already lowering lead levels, although the village will remain under a water advisory for months to come. In the meantime, water bottles and filtration systems are being distributed to residents. The state’s EPA recommends pregnant women and children undergo blood tests as soon as possible.

    Flint and Sebring illustrate two unfortunate truths. The infrastructure that delivers public water is aging to the point where it requires a complete overhaul. And, if accusations are true, both communities were lied to by the very people supposed to ensure the safety of their drinking water.

    With infrastructures becoming increasingly fragile, water delivery systems need to be modernized and restored across the nation—a mammoth undertaking.

    In the meantime, Americans need to take personal responsibility for the safety of their water supply, whether this means tracking and questioning municipal water quality reports, campaigning for infrastructure renewal, or installing point of entry water filtration systems in their own homes. Pelican Water offers two cost-effective options that are NSF-certified to reduce lead contaminants from water—the 6-stage Reverse Osmosis System and our Countertop Water Filter. We can hope Flint and Sebring are isolated incidents, but hope alone does nothing. It’s time to take action, and restore America’s water systems to what they once were—a national treasure.