State Reps. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson) today urged the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to continue working to establish state standards for safe levels of microcystin in Ohio’s public water systems, a step that would be required with the passage of the Lake Erie lawmakers’ legislation—House Bill 625.
The lawmakers’ appeal follows recent comments by Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler indicating that the agency would not pursue state-specific standards, but instead wait until the U.S. EPA sets a national standard before Summer 2015.
“The Ohio EPA should settle on a standard so testing practices can be fine-tuned and deemed adequate before microcystin becomes a problem again next summer,” Sheehy said. “It’s disappointing—and downright unacceptable—that our state officials are sitting on their hands and unwilling to do more to prevent the next water crisis.”
The lawmakers also chastised Ohio EPA officials for their lack of state-level leadership on microcystin, a toxin responsible for the temporary loss of water for 500,000 Toledo-area residents in August. They said the agency’s frequent disagreements with standards set by the U.S. EPA, most recently over climate change, should be an indication that Ohio regulators would be better satisfied by standards of their own creation.
“This is about developing an Ohio solution for an Ohio problem,” said Rep. Patterson. “This is our opportunity to make a difference at the state and local levels, but the Ohio EPA seems to be punting to the same federal government it consistently attacks for overreaching. Ohio can immediately address the toxins that are polluting our drinking water. We are only missing the will.”
In September, Reps. Sheehy and Patterson introduced HB 625, legislation to establish state standards for acceptable and dangerous levels of microcystin in Ohio’s drinking water. HB 625 would also require the Ohio EPA to develop procedures for testing the toxin.