Sebring's ex-water operator blaming EPA for notification failure


SEBRING

Attorneys for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and former Sebring Water Department operator James Bates faced off here Tuesday in what you might call a blame game over the 2016 Sebring water crisis.

The two sides told Visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove in Mahoning County Sebring Area Court why the statements attributed to Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials about the crisis either should or should not be admissible at Bates’ trial set for May 14.

Bates is charged with three counts of violating state laws requiring water system operators to notify their customers when routine testing indicates there is an excessive amount of lead in the drinking water.

Atty. John Juhasz, who represents Bates, said the Ohio EPA should take blame for the failure to notify Sebring water customers of the elevated lead levels because the OEPA was notified of lab results showing elevated lead levels in the drinking water in fall 2015, “at the same time as the village of Sebring was, that [Bates] was in contact with” Ohio EPA officials and that Bates was “told either to wait until he heard back or was not given any instructions at all.”

Juhasz said certain individuals in the OEPA “did not act on the information” about the high lead levels and the OEPA dropped the ball in notifying Sebring of what it needed to do.

Yuhasz said some of the employees working with Sebring “were later disciplined as a result of that.”

But Juhasz said he’s not asking for information about the disciplinary matters to be introduced at trial, only the information that might point to reasons Bates did not make the notifications.

Read more about the case in Wednesday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.

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