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Groups Say Indiana’s “Impaired Water List” is Stagnant

May 21, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS - Every three years, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) updates its "Impaired Waters List," a summary of contaminated waterways in the state. Environmental groups say they are very concerned about the list and revision process, as they believe more must be done to keep Hoosier waters safe.

The Sierra Club and Hoosier Environmental Council are among the organizations urging IDEM to do a better job of tracking and cleaning up waterways that are polluted enough to make the "Impaired Waters List."

Bowden Quinn, conservation program coordinator with the Sierra Club Indiana Chapter, says mercury contamination from coal plants is the biggest concern to human health.

"There are 348 water assessment units listed as impaired for mercury contamination. But women of childbearing age, pregnant women, and children under 15 should not be eating fish from those waters at all."

Quinn says professors from IUPUI (Indiana University, Purdue University at Indianapolis) and Toronto did a recent study of mercury contamination from coal power plants in the Indianapolis area.

"That showed that it was being deposited on the northeast side of the county, getting into the White River and causing mercury contamination down the White River."

Quinn says many of Indiana's contaminated waterways aren't improving.

"Basically, things aren't getting any better. They're probably getting a little worse, certainly for some pollutants like nutrients and mercury."

Overall, E. coli is the most prevalent contaminate affecting Indiana waterways. Quinn says that contamination is caused by untreated human or animal waste getting to the water from failing septic systems or combined sewer overflows.

Another problem is algae blooms caused by fertilizer runoff from agriculture and landscaping.

The groups are forwarding their concerns to IDEM.

More information and a link to the list is at

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN