Sebring gets USDA water grant

Staff report


The village has secured a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant of more than $400,000 to help cover expenses related to its water-supply system.

The grant, which requires no local matching money, was announced Friday by village Manager Richard D. Giroux.

“This award substantially minimizes the financial impact of the water crisis to the village,” Giroux said.

The grant is coming from the USDA’s emergency and imminent community water assistance program.

Sebring has been working on water-chemistry adjustments to reduce leaching of lead from homeowners’ plumbing into tap water.

The village recently completed installation of the temporary feed for orthophosphate, a chemical that coats pipes to prevent leaching.

Joined by local leaders and federal officials, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, will discuss the grant at a 10:15 a.m. news conference Monday in Sebring village council chambers.

“Our No. 1 goal in Sebring is making sure the water is safe,” the senator said.

“Sebring has already spent more than $70,000 responding to this crisis, including buying bottled water,” for distribution to its water-system customers, Brown said.

“This federal investment will help the town to both cover their expenses and prepare for the future,” Brown added.

Brown has introduced legislation to ensure that communities are alerted when lead is detected in tap water, require a remediation plan and provide communities with safe and clean drinking water in the meantime.

Seven of 40 water samples taken last August and September in the Sebring system had elevated lead levels.

Jim Bates, the village water-treatment operator, whose license the state has since revoked, told Giroux about the problem in a memo dated Sept. 30 and emailed to Giroux on Oct. 7.

However, Giroux’s news release about it wasn’t issued until Jan. 21, when the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency ordered him to issue it immediately.

The state agency has followed up on some of the high readings and found the water entering the homes is safe.

OEPA received another round of test results from homeowners in the village who asked to have their tap water tested, and all six of the most-recent samples were below the federal allowable limit for lead.

Combined with earlier voluntary test results received, 1,063 of 1,110 samples have been below the federal allowable level, the agency announced in a news release Friday.

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