Sen. Brown, USDA Secure More than $400,000 in Emergency Federal Funding for Village of Sebring

Funding Will Help Sebring Recover Cost of Bottled Water, Install New Infrastructure to Protect Residents from Lead in Water

SEBRING, OH – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has secured a $404,885 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the Village of Sebring as it continues to recover from its local water crisis. Brown highlighted the grant during a news conference today joined by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH-13), Tony Logan, Ohio USDA Rural Development Director, Sebring Mayor Michael Pinkerton, and Ruthann House, CEO, WSOS Community Action Committee.

“Our number one goal in Sebring is making sure the water is safe,” said Brown. “Sebring has already spent more than $70,000 responding to this crisis, including buying bottled water. This federal investment will help the town both cover its expenses and prepare for the future – and I thank USDA for working with us to secure this funding.”

This grant funded through the USDA’s Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant program will help Sebring provide safe, reliable drinking water for their residents,” said Logan. “We were able to move quickly to help the residents of Sebring due to close cooperation between USDA, Senator Brown and local leaders.”

“Safety is, and always will be, my number one priority. I am proud that these federal funds are going to Sebring to address this crisis,” said Ryan. “Clean drinking water is not a privilege but a right for all Americans. There is more to be done and I will do everything in my power to ensure that we resolve and rectify the root of the problem.”

The funding from USDA Rural Development’s Emergency Community Water Assistance Program will be used to cover the purchase and installation of a permanent orthophosphate feed system – including the bulk tank, day tank, and a dual mounted duplex chemical metering pump system. This system will detect changes in the ph levels in the water and release orthophosphate, which helps prevent lead from leaching into the water, when needed to coat the inside of the pipes. The grant will also cover the cost of bottle water purchased by the Village during the crisis.

Brown, a long-time champion of efforts to help prevent lead poisoning from homes and toys, introduced legislation in February to better protect Ohioans from lead in water. Brown also 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 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.

The CDC estimates that at least four million American households with children live in homes with lead hazards. To address this, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Lead Hazard Control and CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program are working to help protect children from health and safety hazards related to lead-based paint and other hazards in their homes.

In November 2015, Brown – the ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee – called for increased federal funding for these programs while standing with local leaders and a northeast Ohio mother whose family lived in a home with such high levels of lead dust that her three-year-old son was hospitalized and doctors would not allow him to return to the family’s home.                                                                                                          

Following Brown’s call for adequate funding, the Senate passed legislation in December included funding for $110 million for HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes and $17 million for the CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.