Former Sebring water operator pleads no contest in lead contamin - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Former Sebring water operator pleads no contest in lead contamination case

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James Bates James Bates
SEBRING, Ohio -

The man accused of failing to promptly notify more than 8,000 residents of the Sebring area that their water may have been contaminated with lead pleaded no contest to criminal charges this afternoon in Mahoning County Court.

James Bates, 62, of Salem, the former operator of the village of Sebring’s public water system, is accused of failing to promptly notify citizens about the results of water samples tested in 2015.

Bates pleaded no contest to one count and was found guilty by the court. 

Bates was scheduled to go on trial Monday on two counts of recklessly failing to provide timely notice of individual lead tap water results to affected consumers within 30 days of receiving lab results, and one count of recklessly failing to provide timely system-wide public education within 60 days of the end of the lead and copper monitoring period.

Bates was the operator for the village of Sebring’s public water system in 2015 when the system conducted its lead and copper sampling tests required every three years.

All residents whose tap water was tested for lead were required to receive timely notification of the test results, whether or not the results showed elevated levels of lead, according to prosecutors

Some of the tests revealed elevated lead levels, which triggered a required notice to the public.

The state alleges that Bates failed to provide both types of notices within the required timeframes, in violation of Ohio’s safe drinking water laws.

The information became public in January, five months after the initial tests showed high levels of lead.

The 8,100 water customers in Sebring, Beloit, and Maple Ridge were offered free water testing. Schools supplied by Sebring were closed until the water could be deemed safe.

Some families drank bottled water for weeks. Health officials also provided blood tests to children and pregnant women concerned about exposure to lead.

The Ohio EPA conducted an investigation into why it took months before customers were notified about the high lead levels.

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