Bringing clean water to every Ohioan

Published 2:52 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2011

There are often issues or problems that the majority of people in our state have not heard about. As legislators, we have a responsibility to watch out for issues that affect Ohioans in every corner of the state.

Many of my colleagues do not understand that there are people in the state of Ohio who live without clean drinking water every day. Many Ohioans cannot simply turn on a tap and drink the water.

Many of these citizens had clean drinking water in the past, but for a variety of reasons, their wells have gone bad.

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I meet with constituents very frequently who have been trying to find access to clean water for years. Sometimes, we find a way to make it happen. Other times, our efforts only lead to one roadblock after another.

That’s why Rep. Lou Gentile and I have introduced House Bill 120, which establishes a temporary task force to map areas of Ohio that do not have access to clean drinking water and to develop strategies to extend water to these residences. The idea was inspired by the Connect Ohio Task Force, which was formed to expand access to broadband internet.

When I was growing up in Goldsboro, between Wellston and Glen Roy, my mom suspected that our well water had gone bad. She had it tested, and we found out that it was unfit to drink.

Fortunately, we could still use the water to bathe in and to wash clothes, and we began hauling in our drinking water in bleach bottles.

Rural water came to our home a few years later, and we finally had access to clean drinking water.

For too many people today, this is not the case. This problem is not necessarily anyone’s fault, but it is something that I want to make a priority, not just with my district, but with the state at large. Throughout this process, I have learned that access to clean drinking water is not just an Appalachian issue.

There is a community on I-270 in Columbus that does not have access to water because of an annexation issue with the city. Communities like this one exist throughout our state.

As House Bill 120 is currently drafted, the Water Access to Every Residence Task Force would be composed a member from each of the following organizations: the Governor’s Office of Appalachia, the County Commissioners Association, the Ohio Township Association, the Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ohio Rural Water Association, the Small Communities Environmental Infrastructure Group, the Ohio House of Representatives, and the Ohio Senate.

This legislation does not cost any additional money. Rather, it uses existing resources and various agencies’ pooled resources over a one-year period to make recommendations and strategies for the expansion of access to clean drinking water in the state.

I have been surprised by the amount of interest this issue has generated. Quite a bit of testimony has been given in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on this bill recently. The committee has heard from various other parties who also want to be part of this discussion.

I hope the bill continues to receive attention and raise awareness on the issue of water access across our state.

This task force will be beneficial in helping all Ohioans receive what most of us have taken for granted — clean water.

John Carey serves in Ohio’s 87th District of the House of Representatives, which includes eastern Lawrence County. He can be reached at (614) 466-1366, by writing to: Ohio House of Representatives, 77 S. High St., Columbus, OH 43215, or via e-mail at