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‘Giant Leap Forward’ for Drinking Water: Ohio House Energy & Natural Resources Committee passes Lead Bill

Trent Dougherty, May 11, 2016

OK, the giant leap forward quote isn’t exactly mine, but it really sums up Tuesday afternoon’s vote quite well.  The Ohio House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Tuesday, favorably voted out HB 512 – the Governor’s lead contamination legislation. The quote was actually from committee member Representative Dave Hall (R- Millersburg) just moments before a nearly unanimous vote to approve the bill – legislation that we here at OEC give our highest badge of support: Three-Frogs of Approval!

Thanks to the bill sponsor, Representative Tim Ginter (R-Salem), and the Ohio EPA and Governor Kasich, Ohio is poised to make sure that a Sebring’s lead crisis doesn’t happen again.

Some changes accepted, some changes left on the table, but the bill’s still hopping along

During the Committee proceedings, the bill was amended, slightly, to:

  • add drinking water fountains to the list of plumbing fixtures that must be lead-free;
  • clarify that the bill’s water system mapping requirements would include those areas of a water system that are known or likely to be served by lead lines; and
  • require Ohio EPA to write rules to provide for a training protocol for all public water system employees on lead contamination, public notification, and corrosion control requirements.

Three other amendments, offered by Representative Bocceri (D –Poland) whose district includes the Village of Sebring, were unfortunately not accepted. Representative Boccieri’s  amendments would have provided for planning and coordination between water systems and local boards of health and emergency management agencies in lead contamination emergencies; required school drinking fountains to be made in the United States; and shortened the time period for Ohio EPA to take over if a water system failed to alert the public.

However, all in all, the committee’s vote puts Ohio in the driver’s seat, nationally, on protecting people – especially children and pregnant women – from the risks of lead exposure from water.

This is a proud moment for those of us who fight for clean drinking water, and a proud day for Ohioans who deserve to know quickly if their water is at risk. But, the fight isn’t over. Today, the bill will be voted on by the entire House of Representatives. Then it is off to the Senate with only a few short weeks left in session. If Ohio really is going to take this big step forward in protecting our drinking water, it is going to take all of you to help get this important bill passed before the General Assembly leaves for Summer recess.

TAKE ACTION: Tell your state representative to support stronger safeguards against lead-tainted water

Naysayers may scoff at the ambitious timeframes and strict accountability of this bill, but Committee Chair, Al Landis (R-Dover) said it best as he concluded the hearing: “What if it was your family? How soon would you want to know?”  I know my answer, and I bet I know yours, but we need all of you to make sure your lawmakers know where you stand on this issue. Act now!