By Marc Kovac
Lawmakers representing districts on opposite sides of the state want to create a new panel to ensure all Ohioans have access to clean drinking water.
Sens. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, and Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, introduced Senate Bill 37 to form the “Water Access To Every Residence Task Force,” to study the issue and make recommendations for law and policy changes.
“I have witnessed situations [in northwestern Ohio] where people have resorted to dire straits to provide their families with water that many of us would never consider consuming,” Hite told members of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “In today’s advanced world, no Ohio citizen should be without access to the most basic and vital resource required for survival.”
Hite and Gentile offered sponsor testimony on the legislation Tuesday.
The proposed task force would have 14 members, including representatives of various state agencies and advocacy groups plus individual lawmakers from the Ohio House and Senate.
The group would have to meet monthly and provide a final report identifying affected communities and potential funding sources and law changes to ensure residents have access to drinking water.
“During these tough economic times, we all know how difficult it has become for local governments to finance new and existing waterline projects,” Gentile said. “In many rural areas, local leaders do not have the resources or the capacity to seek financial assistance from federal or state programs. This 14-member task force will serve as a valuable resource for identifying funding options for local governments who struggle to identify the financial- assistance programs that are available to them.”