Wednesday, Jul 18, 2018
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State reps to introduce water-testing bill

COLUMBUS — A promised bill mandating testing of drinking water for a toxin produced by algae is about to be introduced, adding to Ohio bills governing application of fertilizer to reduce farmland runoff.

But state hearings vowed more than a month ago in the immediate wake of Toledo’s water crisis have yet to occur.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly has canceled “as needed” legislative days it had scheduled in September and is not expected back in Columbus until after the Nov. 4 election.

State Reps. Mike Sheehy (D., Oregon) and John Patterson (D., Jefferson) are expected to formally introduce next week a bill requiring the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to develop procedures for routine testing for microcystin, a toxin created by the decay of phosphorous-fed algae.

For now, the safe standard would be the one-part-per-billion threshold recommended by the World Health Organization and accepted by Ohio in the absence of federal standards. Some in Ohio’s congressional delegation have introduced bills calling for accelerated development of federal microcystin safety standards.

The Ohio EPA has already announced funding for better water testing and loans for treatment-plant upgrades in the wake of Toledo’s crisis, but Mr. Sheehy said mandatory testing should be spelled out in law. The bill does not provide funding to pay for it.

“As they approach a [microcystin] level close to [the WHO standard], it’s imperative that the public knows about it, so people don’t wake up on Saturday morning and find they can’t drink the water,” Mr. Sheehy said.

Other Democratic bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to more strongly regulate the application of manure, in addition to existing rules affecting chemical fertilizers, and to prohibit the application of manure on frozen or other impermeable surfaces.

None of the bills has had a legislative hearing while lawmakers have been out of town. Members of the informal Lake Erie Legislative Caucus did hold a hearing in August.

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