Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Ohio requires 1,900 water suppliers to map out any lead piping

Ohio’s environmental agency has received nearly 1,900 responses from water-supply systems that may – or may not –reveal lead-based piping and/or lead-infused components.

Included in this figure are systems impacting at least four properties owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, all but one of which are popular with the public.

The reports were demanded by an Ohio law enacted just under one year ago. The law stipulated  that – in the parlance of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency – “community and non-transient, non-community public water systems” must identify and also provide maps that either show service lines with lead or likely to have lead in some form. The deadline for filing those reports was March 9th.

“We are fully compliant with the reporting requirements,” said Victor Riverendo, the Natural Resources Department’s administrator for water and waste water treatment. “If there is anything is there, it might be in the buildings with copper lines.”

Lead is a toxic metal and is associated in young children at even low levels with such debilitations as lower IQs, delayed growth, poor hearing, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder. In high lead levels, the toxic substance can lead to mental retardation, convulsions, coma and even death, says the Ohio Department of Health.

Ohio’s Health Department sternly warns that “there are no safe levels” of lead in the body.

Part of this activity is due to the 2015 finding of excessive lead in Flint, Michigan’s water supply that put at risk up to 12,000 children. This threat propelled other states like Ohio to investigate their own local water supply services for similar contamination.

“The maps will be used by the Ohio EPA to ensure that the proper lead and copper sampling is done in areas of lead service lines,” Ohio EPA spokeswoman Heidi Griesmer said.

However, a look at the individual systems found in the table of the 1,878 water supply systems – only 10 have yet to meet the law’s date requirement – shows a wide range of reporting details. That disparity enfolds the methods being used by the Natural Resources Department’s four identified water supply subjects, too: Deer Creek State Park – Lodge; Hocking Hills State Park; Mohican Lodge at Pleasant Hill Reservoir; and the now largely unused Zaleski Civilian Conservation Corps Camp in Zaleski State Forest.

The Zaleski CCC area isn’t used by the public, but employees do report there and conduct occasional training programs throughout the year, said Natural Resources spokesman Matt Eiselstein.

In the department’s written responses to the required data collection and submission, all four instances say that lead pipes do not exist, though in all probability there is in each case the use of copper piping and fittings that are joined by lead solder, which was prohibited beginning in 1978. This would include the drinking fountains at Hocking Hills State Park’s Old Man’s Cave area and campground.

“There are currently no plans to replace the piping except through routine repair or maintenance,” Eiselstein said as well. “The ODNR is following the EPA established monitoring schedules at each property while working to improve our water systems through our capital improvement projects.”

Also, some of the document’s extensively named properties around the state do little more than provide respective blueprint-type maps that show where water supply lines are located. Meanwhile, other water systems give a detailed and written account as to the expanse of their piping along with when the lines were installed, including lines that may be 75 to 90 years old.

“You are correct that there is quite a variety on the reporting,” said Griesmer. “We provided guidelines in January but we knew that there would be variable (responses) and that’s why we also provided contact names.”

Asked if the Ohio EPA believes a Flint, Michigan-style lead-pipe crisis is lurking somewhere in the state, Griesmer says “the short answer is ‘no.’”

This likelihood of unearthing a potentially health-diminishing scenario is decreasing as well, Griesmer says, due in part to an aggressive testing program.

“Some water supply systems are tested every six months; others are tested annually and some others are tested every three years,” Griesmer said. “And we’ve seen fewer lead-associated violations over the past three years.”
Ohio EPA is making all the maps it has received available online at: Public water systems that are required to comply with this new requirement are listed alphabetically, and maps received by Ohio EPA can be accessed by clicking the appropriate link. Respective contact names and telephone numbers are provided for each of the listings.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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