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Experts: Indiana Could Do More To Curb Water Pollutants

Experts worry despite high rankings in a Clean Water Act Permit inspection study, Indiana still needs better measures to enhance water quality.

The Indiana Department of Environmental  Management is touting a new study that shows Indiana has best record in the nation for inspecting Clean Water Act Permits. But environmental advocates say the state can do more.

Out of Indiana’s more than 1900 Clean Water Act permitted sites only 176 have not been inspected in the past 5 years – that’s the best rate of inspection in the country.

IDEM assistant water quality commissioner Bruno Pigott says the largest number of permits go to waste water treatment plants which are either owned by corporations or municipalities.

The permits IDEM issues are limits on the amounts of pollutants facilities can release into the water.

Pigott says IDEM inspectors review data submitted monthly as well as visit plants to make sure they are working properly and within the site specific agreements established by the permit

Pigott says while IDEM regulates a variety of pollutants – it pays the most attention to ECOLI.

“Why is ECOLI important? Because when people recreate in our waters – they swim –they fish – they want to make sure that it’s safe and they don’t get sick,” says Pigott.

Kim Ferraro is director of water policy for the Hoosier Environmental council. While she applauds IDEM’s efforts – she says the facilities they are referring to represent a very small fraction of overall polluting sources across the state.

“What we remained concerned about with respect to what’s happening here in Indiana as compared to other states is how those other sources of water pollution are being regulated or not regulated and inspected,” says Ferraro.

Ferraro says main pollution source points of concern include surface mines, coal ash ponds and confined animal feeding operations. She says large regulation gaps exist for these industries and when they are subject to regulation the permits are generally not site specific.

Piggot meanwhile says IDEM covers the facilities they are authorized by law to inspect.

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