U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan introduces more drinking water protections

Staff report


U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan is joining the chorus of legislators decrying the drinking water crises in Sebring and Flint, Mich.

Ryan, of Howland, D-13th, and two Michigan congressmen Thursday introduced the Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act.

In recent weeks, residents of both Sebring and Flint have seen water tests that show lead above allowable levels in their homes.

“Safety is, and always will be, my No. 1 priority,” Ryan said in a news release. “It is outrageous that those in Sebring and Flint were knowingly and blatantly put in danger by the very people who were supposed to be protecting their well-being. This legislation is a step in the right direction to ensure that these horrible situations do not continue to happen in our communities.”

The legislation will strengthen requirements to have the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notify the public when concentrations of lead in drinking water are above federal requirements. It requires the EPA to create a strategic plan for handling and improving information flow between water utilities, the states, the EPA and affected consumers. It also ensures consumer notification when the corrosiveness of water being transported in a lead pipe could leach into public drinking water.

Meanwhile, an Ohio EPA employee may be in hot water in an unrelated probe.

An Ohio Inspector General investigation found that an OEPA employee was operating a personal business during days and times when he was working for the state of Ohio.

The investigation confirmed Edwin Perez, an environmental specialist in the air-pollution control division south of Cleveland, had made more than 700 telephone calls in six months that were unrelated to matters involving the OEPA. During that same time, an analysis of the state-owned computer assigned to Perez showed more than 3,500 visits to websites related to real estate.

In an interview with the inspector general, Perez estimated he owned 13 real- estate properties and was in the business of buying distressed properties, hiring contractors to make repairs or improvements, and then renting the properties to tenants.

The case has been referred to the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office.

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