Water protection bill headed to president

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ohio politicians are taking steps to prevent another water crisis like the one that affected nearly 500,000 people in northwest Ohio last year.

U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) announced Wednesday their Drinking Water Protection Act passed the House and Senate and is now headed to President Barack Obama for his signature.

This legislation will direct the Environmental Protection Agency to develop and report to Congress a strategic Algal Toxin Risk Assessment and Management Plan within 90 days. According to a news release, the plan will evaluate the risk to human health from drinking water provided by public water systems contaminated with algal toxins and will recommend feasible treatment options. Treatment options will include procedures and source water protection practices to mitigate adverse public health effects of algal toxins.

“Cities and towns across Ohio need to have the best, most up-to date information on how to keep their drinking water safe,” Brown said. “By targeting harmful algal blooms, we can ensure that communities are prepared to deal with threats to their drinking water systems. This legislation is part of our ongoing efforts to clean up and protect Lake Erie for future generations.”

The bill, written by Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), is in response to the Toledo water crisis that disrupted northwest Ohio’s water supply in 2014.

“Last summer, families in Toledo were warned not to drink the tap water in their own homes because it was unsafe,” Portman said. “This is something no family should have to go through, and this bill will allow federal agencies to better prepare and prevent future disasters like the one we experienced in Toledo.

“By establishing a strategic plan to ward off algae, this is an important victory in our efforts to protect Ohioans and keep our drinking water safe.”

Latta said the health of Ohio’s bodies of water is vital to the region, as millions of people rely on them for drinking water. He said this bipartisan legislation is a “major step” to better understand and further mitigate harmful algal toxins in the drinking water provided by the Great Lakes and surface water.

“This legislation — developed through input from the states, as well as academic and scientific communities — will help ensure the protection of public health and safety, and the preservation of one of our greatest national gifts, Lake Erie,” he said.

By John Bush

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Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima.