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Environment


Six Sebring residents are found with elevated lead levels
But the Mahoning County health commissioner says there's no way to prove water contamination is to blame
Story by BRIAN BULL


 
Water is usually not the primary source of lead contamination, but can aggravate other causes.
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A sixth person has tested positive for elevated lead levels in Sebring. For Ohio Public Radio, WCPN’s Brian Bull reports.

LISTEN: Another Sebring lead case

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Monday night, the Mahoning County Health Department tested 32 Sebring residents for lead poisoning and found one with an elevated blood lead level. Altogether, more than 200 people in the Sebring area have been tested since officials disclosed nearly two weeks ago that water in seven homes had lead levels above federal safety standards. 

Pat Sweeney is the Mahoning County health commissioner. She says a positive test doesn’t necessarily mean the person’s water supply is to blame.  

“Water generally isn’t a primary source of lead contamination; it’s generally the deteriorating lead paint or lead in the dust," says Sweeney.

"But lead in water can contribute to an elevated blood lead level. So it would indicate that they need to have that level verified by a physician. And if it is truly high, then an environmental assessment would need to be completed so they could understand where that individual may have been exposed to lead.” 

The status of the six Sebring residents is unknown, due to federal privacy law. A Mahoning County spokeswoman says all have been referred to their physicians for further assessment. 

The water treatment plant operator has been removed from duty and remains under investigation by the state and federal EPA. He denies wrongdoing.  

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