Ohio EPA to revoke Sebring operator license

Posted at 6:39 AM, Jan 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-25 10:02:32-05

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is taking steps to revoke the license of Sebring's water treatment operator after high levels of lead were detected in the city's water. 

Officials at the EPA say operator Jim Bates may have falsified reports.

Sebring's city manager issued an advisory Thursday night that said children and pregnant women shouldn't drink the village system's tap water after seven of 20 homes where the water is routinely tested showed levels of lead and copper that exceeded U.S. EPA standards.

RELATED : Sebring Schools cancel Monday classes for EPA water testing

Tests had showed lead levels at 21 parts per billion in the seven homes. The EPA standard is 15 parts per billion. Lead can cause serious health problems for infants and young children.

As of Sunday evening, three of the homes were still above the allowed federal level.

The EPA is now requiring the village to test the water and to provide bottled water or filtration systems to homes where the levels exceed EPA standards. The agency is providing up to $25,000 in financial assistance to the village to help cover costs.

As the EPA continues to test the water, authorities say the investigation is a criminal one.

“It has become apparent that our field office was too patient in dealing with the village of Sebring’s ‘cat and mouse’ game and should have had closer scrutiny on the water system meeting its deadlines,” said Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler. “We are in the process of developing new protocols and appropriate personnel actions to ensure that our field staff takes action when it appears that a water system is not complying and taking their review seriously.”