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Sebring Schools Closed Again As the Village Tests Water For Lead

Sebring corporation limit sign

  Schools in Sebring will be closed again today as more lead tests are conducted on the small town’s water supply. WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia reports.

The first advisory went out Thursday night, saying children and pregnant women should not drink the village’s tap water after seven of 20 homes where water was tested showed elevated levels of lead and copper. Schools in Sebring -- which is midway between Canton and Youngstown -- were closed Friday. Today’s closure comes after 14 of 15 samples at the town’s schools showed lead levels below the allowable level.
Marc Edwards is an environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech. He investigated the high lead levels in Flint, Michigan, and he says the problem starts in the aging pipes below places like Sebring.
“Unfortunately what we’re finding is that as they age – kind of like the analogy to lead paint in apartments – the rust layers get thicker and thicker. And they can crack and literally pieces of lead rust -- which are chemically identical to lead paint -- can fall off into the water supply.”
Edwards adds that aging lead pipes could be a problem for many cities for decades.
“We’ve never really tried to optimize the chemistry of the drinking water so that the lead stays on the pipe and less of it goes into the water. We’ve taken a first cut at that, but anyone who’s looked at this problem knows that we could do a whole lot better.”
WKYC is reporting that the Ohio EPA notified Sebring officials about elevated lead levels on December 3, but city officials dispute that, saying their first discussion with the EPA was not until this past Thursday.
Sebring had originally said the schools’ water was safe and classes would resume today, but those posts were removed from the district’s website yesterday afternoon. Sebring officials did not return calls for comment on Sunday.