WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following water crises in Flint, Michigan, and Sebring, Ohio, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced legislation he is drafting to help protect Ohio families from toxic lead exposure during a news conference call today.

“No parent should have to worry that the water coming out of their faucets might be poisoning their children,” Brown said. “That’s why I’m introducing legislation to ensure communities have the ability to address threats from lead in an efficient, transparent, and accountable way. But it’s not enough to just react to the crisis at hand – once children have been exposed, the effects can’t be erased. We need a proactive strategy to protect families from being exposed to lead in the first place. The bill I will introduce this week is just one piece of that puzzle. But we are in this fight for the long haul and we will keep fighting to protect Ohio families from lead – whether it’s in drinking water or the paint in our houses.”

Brown’s bill includes four parts:

  • Ensure families are alerted right away when there is a problem by directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to automatically alert the public if the state or local agency responsible fails to do so in 15 days. Currently, local and state officials are responsible for notifying the public, which they failed to do in a timely manner in the cases of Sebring and Flint;
  • Require communities to have a plan in place to fix the problem within six months. The current requirement is up to 18 months;
  • Require there to be a plan in place to make sure communities have access to clean, safe water in the meantime; and
  • Improve transparency by requiring the EPA to make annual state water quality reports available online in one, easy to use place.

Brown is currently drafting the legislation and plans to introduce it in the coming days.

The Senate may have the opportunity to vote on part one of the legislation Brown outlined as early as this week. U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced an amendment in response to Flint, which includes that provision. Brown took to the Senate floor last night to call for a vote and for a robust, long-term response to lead.

Following reports that the water supply in Sebring tested high for lead, Brown released a resource guide for families to learn more about lead poisoning and testing resources around Ohio, summarizing information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Ohio Department of Health.

Brown’s office also contacted the CDC and secured a commitment that the agency will be on hand to provide technical assistance and support to help families in Sebring get tested and access resources that are available.

Brown has been a strong supporter of federal funding to help prevent lead poisoning, monitor lead exposure in children, and eliminate lead hazards. As part of the year-end appropriations bill passed in December, Brown supported funding for federal programs at the CDC and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is the only federal program that provides funding for states and local health departments to conduct surveillance of where, how, and when children are exposed to lead received $17 million. HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes received $110 million and helps protect children from health and safety hazards related to lead-based paint and other home hazards.