TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Many of Ohio’s public drinking water systems are in danger of missing a deadline requiring them to map out the locations of their lead pipes, the state’s Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.
Only about half the surveys from the nearly 1,900 public drinking water systems have been turned in, even though the deadline is Thursday, the agency said.
The maps show streets or neighborhoods where lead pipes carry water into homes.
Requiring a better inventory of lead pipes was included in an overhaul of how the state and cities deal with lead in drinking water. The measure signed into law last summer also makes water systems alert residents within two days after lead is found at the tap.
The changes came about after the northeast Ohio village of Sebring waited months to warn residents about high lead levels in their tap water.
The state has set up a website where the individual maps can be found. Some have detailed information about the location of lead pipes while others just show general areas where they might be found.
State environmental officials say the maps will help them make sure testing for lead is done in the right neighborhoods — lead pipes are predominantly found in older areas — and help homeowners answer questions about their pipes.
The state agency said the maps have been trickling in this week and it hopes most will meet the deadline. Those that don’t will get another reminder next week, telling them they have 30 days to complete the work.
The state Environmental Protection Agency eventually could hand out fines to those that don’t respond, said Beth Messer, assistant chief of its drinking water program.
Some smaller systems have complained about how the process of completing the mapping is difficult because they don’t have historical information about where the lead pipes are located, she said.
“The fact that they have poor records is exactly what we’re trying to fix,” Messer said.
Larry Huber, who is the Ohio chairman for the American Water Works Association, said all the water system operators he has talked with said they plan on complying with the requirement.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s something they have to do,” he said. “There are a lot that will wait to the last day to send it in.”
Huber, who works with the utility department in Lima, said the city sent in its map last week, but got a notice from the state this week that it had not been received. Some checking verified it had been received but not logged yet, he said.