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Ohio EPA asking for answers, accountability after Steubenville’s water crisis

A Feb. 5 letter from the EPA to Steubenville officials says the city has failed to maintain federal compliance. The letter cites the water depressurization from line breaks between Jan. 12-24. It says the main problem with the breaks was a lack of attention to the city's valve system.

The water crisis that left Steubenville without water for nearly a week has gotten the attention of federal authorities.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is asking for answers and accountability. EPA officials notified the city of Steubenville that it has 30 days to come up with a plan of action to prevent future infrastructure failures.

A Feb. 5 letter from the EPA to Steubenville officials says the city has failed to maintain federal compliance. The letter cites the water depressurization from line breaks between Jan. 12-24. It says the main problem with the breaks was a lack of attention to the city's valve system.

"And what we have to do within the next 30 days is prepare a plan where we're headed with this,” Steubenville City Manager Jim Mavromatis said. “How to correct these things so it may not happen again."

According to the EPA's investigation, the valve system in Steubenville has had a lack of active maintenance and accurate mapping.

"It's testing the existing valves to see if they work and also putting additional valves in so it can isolate breaks in the city," Mavromatis said.

As valves failed, the ability to syphon drinking water to residents kept failing. The valve failures were extensive.

There were at least five major valves fail, each costing nearly $45,000 to fix.

"That money adds up quick that we don't have," Mavromatis said.

The EPA is offering help on loans and grants, but more financial decisions might be needed.

"The one thing I want to make clear,” Mavromatis said. “Increasing the water rates is not going to correct this problem. This is a problem that's going to take a lot of money. And increasing the rates isn't going to get that. We may have to take some bonds out or some specific loans."

There's no danger to the water in Steubenville.

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