SEBRING, OH – A water crisis in Northeast Ohio community led to angry exchanges during a packed council meeting Monday night. Residents of Sebring, in Mahoning County, have been on edge since they learned that lead has been detected in the town’s water supply.
There was standing room only inside the Village Hall as residents came with many questions, but received few answers. The village council threw out their original agenda to address residents’ concerns, but told them many the answers would have to come from the county health department or the Ohio EPA.
“A lot of us have kids at home, we’re extremely afraid and we need a mayor to stand up, be honest with us, hold people accountable and fix this problem,” said one resident who spoke at the meeting.
Dozens of residents packed the village hall, some had to stand in the hallway…many frustrated, angry or looking for answers.
“You want to hang somebody and I understand that because you’re all angry…I’m angry myself,” said councilman Kenneth Flowers, Jr.
On Friday, residents learned that potentially unsafe levels of lead were found in the village drinking water, forcing residents to use bottled water for their daily needs. It also forced the school district to shut down…schools will again be closed on Tuesday.
“I’m supposed to heat up bottled water to wash our clothes and our laundry and bathe them…I mean who’s got time for that,” said another resident.
Sebring Mayor J. Michael Pinkerton told residents that out of 40 homes tested in the village, seven were positive for lead. He says testing by the Ohio EPA shows that the lead is not coming from the town’s water distribution system.
One woman says her two year old son already tests high for lead exposure.
“He’s two, he doesn’t go anywhere else,” she said.
“It doesn’t mean it comes from the water ma’am,” responded the mayor as the crowd booed.
“We think we have tracked this down to older homes where there’s lead pipe or steel piping or plumbing or they’ve used lead solder on the copper joints,” said Mayor Pinkerton.
Mark Hughes owns three homes and a diner in Sebring.
“It’s a witch hunt right now, I just want some good answers, I want to know the truth, I want to know if somebody did know about this,” said resident Mark Hughes.
“The whole time I’ve been here I’ve been pregnant most of the time, so I’m concerned if I have lead in my blood or if my baby does,” said resident Nora Rhinehart.
“The bottom line is you need to give us time to gather the investigation,” said councilman Flowers.
“How much time do you need?” asked one resident.
“We’ve had four days sir, that’s it…we’ve had four days,” Flowers responded.
Some results from the Ohio EPA are expected Tuesday morning.
The administration has suspended the superintendent of the water plant. The mayor says any residents who want their water tested can contact the village hall to have that done.