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Indiana Asked to Step Up Water Quality Testing

Water quality testing for the more than 4,000 public water systems in Indiana has dropped with years of budget cuts. (cityoffortwayne.org)
Water quality testing for the more than 4,000 public water systems in Indiana has dropped with years of budget cuts. (cityoffortwayne.org)
April 17, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS – A spill at a U.S. Steel plant last week that sent wastewater containing potentially toxic chemicals into a tributary of Lake Michigan in Northern Indiana is the latest example of why constant water quality testing is important, according to Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council.

Maloney says the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has seen budget cuts for more than a decade, and that's threatening drinking water quality for millions of people.

"This program is particularly important in that IDEM helps train and certify the people that operate drinking water systems, and these are pretty technical systems that require significant training and expertise to make sure that the water that comes out of everybody's tap is safe to drink," he states.

Gov. Eric Holcomb's $15.6 billion budget blueprint calls for only $200,000 to analyze water infrastructure safety and reliability.

Maloney contends the budget needs to go further, citing a request for an additional $1.4 million for the state's drinking water program, to also fund cleanup of contaminated sites.

Indiana is dealing with a couple of big contamination issues – one at an East Chicago housing complex that was built on a Superfund site, and another in the Eagle Creek neighborhood of Indianapolis, which was just added to the EPA's Superfund site list last fall.

Maloney cites other examples of what has happened in cities across the country when drinking water becomes unsafe.

"You can look at Charleston, W. Va., that had the chemical spill a couple of years ago, and Flint, Mich.,” he states. “We don't want to end up where we're on the precipice of disasters like that."

State lawmakers are debating the budget plan and could finalize it this week.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN