As a precautionary response to COVID-19, Ohio EPA is currently operating with most staff working remotely. If you are working with our staff on a current project and you know the name of the employee you are working with, email them at firstname.lastname@epa.ohio.gov or call them directly. The Agency website has contact information for every district, division, and office. In order to reach us, please contact Ohio EPA’s main phone line at (614) 644-3020 or the main line for the division or office you are trying to reach.

After March 23, our district offices and Central Office will be temporarily closed and will have increasingly limited ability to receive deliveries, plans, etc. All entities are encouraged to submit plans, permit applications, etc., electronically where there are existing avenues to do so, such as the eBusiness Center (eBiz). Please refer to the list of available services on the main eBiz webpage. We encourage you to make use of all that apply, even if you have not used eBiz in the past. Plans under 25 MB can be emailed. For large plans over 25 MB, entities should work with the reviewer/division to upload via LiquidFiles. Directions for submitting docs via LiquidFiles is available on YouTube. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you in advance for your understanding.

To report a spill or environmental emergency, contact the spill hotline (800) 282-9378 or (614) 224-0946

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response, Questions, and Guidance

Information regarding the Division of Drinking and Ground Water’s response and guidance to COVID-19.

This page was last updated April 3, 2020

Ohio EPA is beginning to get inquiries regarding COVID-19 and procedures public water systems should take now that the outbreak has reached Ohio.

The State is actively monitoring this situation. Ohio EPA is actively involved with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency and its State Partner Agencies and will provide any updates as needed to our public water systems.

Ohio EPA recommends that all systems review and update their contingency plans as necessary.  We especially recommend reviewing and updating the operator absence circumstance.  Things to consider are agreements with neighboring utilities, Ohio WARN, AWWA or others to provide backup operators as necessary, isolating healthy staff at your facility and any other actions that ensure the protection of public health by providing safe drinking water.

Ohio recommends the following resources for those of you looking for more information related to COVID-19. The State of Ohio will take measures as needed to protect public health and ensure the provision of safe quantities of drinking water.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the operations, resiliency and certification section at 866-411-6728. 

Operations at Ohio Public Water Systems during COVID-19 Pandemic

Conditions may change as this situation evolves. Ohio EPA will continue to monitor the state and federal orders and will adjust our response and direction accordingly. Every effort should be made to comply with all requirements. Ohio EPA will work with systems as this situation progresses and may utilize enforcement discretion during the State of Emergency. Appropriate documentation is necessary.  

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The operation of public water systems by trained operators to ensure Ohioans are provided with safe drinking water is a critical public health-related responsibility. Certified operators are public health officials and should be performing their civic duty to protect public health and safety during this declared emergency. Professionals need to make sure safe drinking water is being produced and delivered to customers and sewage is being treated. Ohio EPA expects public water and wastewater systems to do their best to provide appropriate staffing for their facilities.  

Recommendations for certified operators and systems:

  • Have backup staff identified in the event personnel become sick.
  • Perform solo visits. Practice social distancing.  
  • Stagger visits – visit systems in times when other individuals are not present (outside normal working hours for non-community systems)
  • Have contingencies in place (appropriately certified professional backups, certified professional operators, personnel knowledgeable of the system)
  • Disinfecting common surfaces before and after shift changes

Please note public water systems that are not producing water are not required to have staffing or daily visits. Wastewater systems that are not discharging have provisions that can be implemented that will greatly reduce any visit requirements.

The production and delivery of public water by community water systems is a priority. In case the tools above cannot be used, contact your Ohio EPA District representative as soon as possible and Ohio EPA will work through the situation with you. In the event all of the measures fail and public water and wastewater systems are unable to meet their requirements the Ohio EPA may use enforcement discretion in dealing with these situations. 

Ohio Public Water System Operator Guidance 

We are all aware that providing safe drinking water is an essential public health service. We appreciate the efforts being taken by all public water systems across the state to ensure Ohioans have continued access to safe drinking water, particularly during the COVID-19 state of emergency. We will continue to face challenges during this time and will work together to ensure systems are capable of providing service to meet this important public health responsibility.

At this time, Ohio EPA is not considering approval for reducing minimum staffing requirements. We have sent a blast email to all systems and operators of record to review their contingency plans and ensure they have adequately addressed absence of an operator. We are encouraging systems to make arrangements with neighboring utilities, professional organizations, become members of Ohio WARN, or have discussions with contract operators to provide backup operators as necessary. Ohio EPA urges systems to isolate healthy staff at their facility and take any other actions that ensure the protection of public health by providing safe drinking water.

Larger systems should consider sheltering healthy operators on site at the utility, creating operating teams and staggered shifts that minimize contact between other personnel. 

Provisions in the rules allow Class 2, 3, and 4 systems to be operated for up to 30 consecutive days by an operator with one classification less than the plant. Systems that have operators that meet these parameters have the flexibility to stagger as appropriate to ensure the safety of all of their operators.

In the event a system enacts their contingency plan due to illness of their operator of record or backups, contact their your local Ohio EPA representative via email. 

Ohio EPA will continue working closely with systems and will continue evaluating areas of regulatory flexibility, where possible, to assist entities in alternative approaches to maintaining compliance, such as extending reporting deadlines and exercising enforcement discretion. In situations where regulatory alternatives are authorized by Ohio EPA, water systems need to document the measures taken to ensure appropriate oversight of the water system.

We recommend people routinely check this web page for updates and new information. Ohio EPA is committed to working closely with all of you to ensure safe drinking water for Ohioans.

Designating Essential Employees and Service Provider

Ohio EPA has received questions regarding essential employees and suppliers/contractors that may be vital to ensuring water and wastewater facilities continue operating during periods of emergency.

Ohio EPA would provide the following guidance:

Municipal systems (village, county and city) should have a process in place to designate essential employees and provide credentials identifying them.

Utilities should review their contingency plans and identify material suppliers, labs, contract operators, etc. that are essential to ensuring the continuing operation of water and wastewater facilities. Once identified, utilities should reach out to those suppliers and ask them to join the Ohio Public Private Partnership(OP3) by going to the following weblink : https://homelandsecurity.ohio.gov/op3.stm and clicking the link to join the partnership. The location is demonstrated in the screenshot below.

In the event of an emergency declaration that limits travel, membership in the partnership will give the suppliers, labs, certified operators, etc., the ability to request approval and credentials as essential to the treatment of water or wastewater. These credentials will allow them to continue to provide the services necessary to keep water and wastewater facilities functioning.

Private utilities, contract operators and Water and Sewer Districts should take the same steps outlined above for joining OPP3.

Operator Staffing

During the State of Emergency, Ohio EPA may use our enforcement discretion, but will continue to ensure safe public water is being produced and delivered to customers in Ohio. This is a matter of public health and Ohio EPA will work with the Administration to ensure these public health officials can perform their civic duty. 

  • Every effort should be made to have the Operator in Responsible Charge (ORC) perform visits. If circumstances arise that require another approach, please contact your district office representative by email for other accommodations. 
  • Have backups, stagger visits and do visits solo – avoid social interaction.
  • Be sure to document operational changes and communicate significant changes to your Ohio EPA representative.
  • Water systems may cease reporting minimum staffing times on their Monthly Operating Reports (MORs), but must continue to maintain log books on site.
  • If the system is closed and not producing water, you do not need to visit. Just note the facility is closed. 

Required Public Water System Monitoring 

Public Water Systems are required to conduct routine compliance monitoring at the water treatment plant and in the distribution system. As of today, U.S. EPA has not provided any relief on federal requirements; however, Ohio EPA is considering the potential COVID-19 exposure risk to homeowners and water plant personnel, and is offering the following recommendations and options for flexibility.

4-3-2020: For systems that are completely closed for the entire monitoring period, contact your district representative. Water samples for systems that are completely closed for the monitoring period will not be required. However, prior to re-opening and serving water to the public, a routine total coliform sample must be collected with negative results.

Disinfection By-Products (DBP) 

DBPs – Most systems are scheduled for the first 2 weeks of a month during each quarter, so the number of systems that have not sampled in the 1st quarter of 2020  due to COVID-19 concerns is hopefully small; however, distribution crews should focus on emergencies, line breaks, maintaining chlorine residuals, and Total Coliform sampling.  

OPTIONS:

  • Public water systems can utilize alternative sampling locations, such as sampling at locations close to the usual sample locations that are accessible, at hydrants, pump stations or tanks. Please contact your district office representative via email and Ohio EPA will work with you on a temporarily revised sampling plan. 

Lead and Copper (PbCu) 

  1. Special purpose monitoring for main breaks. Public water systems can offer filters to address lead and copper concerns during main replacements/breaks/disruptions and will not be required to take special purpose lead and copper samples so long as filters are offered. 
  2. Routine PbCu monitoring. Systems have until June 30 to complete six-month monitoring period sampling, so sample collection could be delayed until closer to the end of the monitoring period.  If you do collect a sample and the lab provides you with the results, then consumer notice would be required.  A total of 92 systems are required to report during this period. 
  3. Routine water quality parameter monitoring. Sampling at a hydrant nearest to the normal sampling point would be acceptable. Contact your District Office via email if there are any changes.

Bacteria and Chlorine Residual

Public water systems can temporarily modify sample siting plans to minimize contact with the public.  Notify your district representative via email of these changes. Chlorine residual monitoring can be collected at a hydrant, pump stations and elevated and ground level tanks; however, these locations should not be primary alternative selections to routine monitoring locations.  Hydrants could produce false positive bacteria results that public water systems would need to address. As always, when sampling for coliform bacteria, public water systems must collect chlorine residuals. 

Fluoride 

Distribution fluoride monitoring may be suspended but must continue at the entry point to distribution.

Manganese Monitoring in Surface Water System 

Ground Water systems with Iron and Manganese removal should continue to monitor for iron and manganese. Surface water systems not feeding permanganate and with historical results below the secondary MCL of 0.05 mg/L may cease weekly manganese sampling. Please contact your district office representative via email to verify your ability to cease sampling.

Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring 

Ohio EPA is evaluating potential monitoring flexibility under OAC 3745-90-03

Reporting Requirements

Reporting related to MCL, HAL or ALE exceedances and surface water monthly operating reports (MORs) should meet current requirements. However, Ohio EPA will be flexible with other reporting requirements and non-surface water MORs may be submitted by the end of the month if results are within acceptable ranges.

Conditions may change as this situation evolves. Ohio EPA will continue to monitor the situation and will adjust our response and direction accordingly.
 

See the Operations tab for information about:

  • Ohio Public Water System Operator Guidance
  • Operator Staffing
  • Designating Essential Employees and Service Provider

See the Operations tab for information about:

  • Designating Essential Employees and Service Provider

Resources

Certified Drinking Water Labs

This list (updated April 2, 2020) is for Microcystin, Total Coliform, Nitrate, Lead and Copper, and Operational Parameters. If you are looking for a certified drinking water lab to analyze for a contaminant not on the list, please go to epa.ohio.gov/Portals/28/documents/labcert/Combined-Lab-List.pdf

Ohio EPA Laboratory Certification Program 

Laboratory Certification staff are currently working from home. During this time, we will not be doing on-site inspections; however, please continue to submit renewal applications as required, ensuring that applications are submitted to the DWLABCERT@epa.ohio.gov email address. Applications will continue to be processed. We will extend certification and interim authorization expiration dates until such time we can perform an on-site inspection. 

In order to ensure continuing production of safe drinking water and to help Ohio's certified drinking water laboratories continue required analyses during the current state of emergency, Ohio EPA Laboratory Certification (Lab Cert) is temporarily offering the following options – with approval by Lab Certification: 

  • If neighboring systems have analysts currently certified by Lab Cert for the same methods, they may temporarily perform analysis at labs using the same methods. 
    • If this occurs, documentation must be kept by the lab(s) using outside help. 
    • Once the emergency has subsided, a copy of the documentation must be filed with the laboratory’s bench sheets and a copy must be emailed to DWLABCERT@epa.ohio.gov
  • The previous certification of an individual to perform plant control tests [for the same method(s)] may be considered for reducing the number of samples required to obtain Interim Authorization for operational certification. 
  • For HABs, submit an MDL with data for each analyst seeking certification. 
  • If all the above scenarios are exhausted, Lab Cert has created the option of a virtual survey. 
    • This option requires submission of an application to “Add Analyst(s)”. 
    • After review and approval of the application, a virtual survey will be scheduled. 
    • The results of the virtual survey will be confirmed via an email. 
      • No certificates will be issued. 
  • Once travel restrictions are lifted, Lab Cert will contact you to follow up with an on-site survey (if certification is desired to be continued). 

Please direct any questions to DWLABCERT@epa.ohio.gov.

Note: Due to most Ohio EPA staff working remotely, we are asking that all 2019 Consumer Confidence Report draft reviews and/or submittals be sent via email to ccr@epa.ohio.gov. All questions regarding CCRs at this time should also be directed to that email address as well.

See the Operations tab for information about:

  • Required Public Water System Monitoring
  • Reporting Requirements

Laboratory Collection Services

This list reflects comments received from sample collection services on March 30, 2020. As COVID-19 response evolves, we recommend calling services directly and inquiring about current procedures. Many of the services on this list indicated that they have made some changes or plan to make changes in the near future (for example, operating with reduced hours or changing drop-off procedures to allow social distancing).

March 24, 2020 - Due to the recent restrictions from COVID 19, hard copy detail or general plans will not be received by Ohio EPA. A Public Water System, or their representative, should only mail the fee upon request of the Agency. The detail plans, general plan, Water Supply Data Sheet and/or specifications can be submitted to DDAGW.Engineering@epa.ohio.gov either directly if less than 25 MB or through Liquid Files. If sending plans through Liquid Files you will be asked to provide an email address for an Ohio EPA staff person, please use susan.schell@epa.ohio.gov. Directions for submitting docs via LiquidFiles is available on YouTube.

If you currently have plans submitted, you can use the DDAGW.Engineering@epa.ohio.gov to inquire on the status or email the staff engineer directly who is reviewing them. If you are submitting a revised set of plans in response to comments, then please direct them to the staff person who signed the comment letter. If a fee is outstanding, the Agency will reach out to obtain it. 

Once Ohio EPA is back to normal operation, this message will be removed and the previous procedure will be back in place.