Senator: Sebring water crisis responsible for parts of new feder - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Senator: Sebring water crisis responsible for parts of new federal laws

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WASHINGTON -

The water crisis in Sebring, Ohio helped inspire portions of new federal laws designed to protect people from lead hazards, according to U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.

President Obama on Friday signed into law a water infrastructure package passed by congress.

Brown's office says bills in the package include proposals that were sponsored by the senator, brought about in part by the discovery of lead in the Village of Sebring water supply.

The village's 8,100 water customers were not told until January that several homes had tested for high lead levels, four months after the Ohio EPA had received the test results.

The revelation led to weeks of people being supplied with bottled water, blood testing for children and pregnant women exposed to the village water, and a criminal investigation by the Ohio EPA.

Since the Sebring crisis, several school districts around the Valley have conducted tests and discovered higher than acceptable levels of lead in some water sources.

The Lead Testing in School and Child Care Drinking Water Act of 2016, which Brown cosponsored, will create a new federal grant program to help daycare centers and school districts test their drinking water for potential lead contamination.

The law authorizes $20 million for this grant program through the Environmental Protection Agency.

Brown's office says the law includes proposal from a bill he introduced following water crises in Sebring, Ohio and Flint, Michigan that requires the EPA to automatically alert the public to lead contamination if the state or local agency responsible fails to do so in 15 days.

Currently, local and state officials are responsible for notifying the public.

The Drinking Water Safety and Infrastructure Act will provide federal aid to communities facing lead crises and help new ones from occurring.

Brown says Sebring and other communities in Ohio would benefit from the Water Infrastructure Investments for the Nation Act signed on Friday.

Provisions:

$20 million in credit subsidies for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Fund with the goal of obligating at least $700 million in secured financing for water infrastructure projects across the country.

$15 million annually for the next two years for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund, which develops programs, provides outreach to the public and health provider, supports research, and funds state programs to address and prevent childhood lead poisoning.

$15 million annually for the next two years for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy Start Initiative which provides assistance to pregnant women and new mothers by helping connect them with health care and other resources to foster healthy childhood development.

The law also includes $60 million annually for a new EPA grant program to reduce lead levels in drinking water through replacement of lead service lines, testing, planning, corrosion control, and public education. Applications from small and disadvantaged communities will receive priority access to funding.

Additionally, the law includes $20 million for a new EPA grant program that will help small and disadvantaged communities comply with federal standards under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  

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