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Supporters Say Indiana Bill Could Prevent Drinking-Water Disaster

PHOTO: Senate Bill 312 would require reporting of all above-ground tanks storing toxic chemicals that are close to sources of surface-level drinking water in Indiana. Photo credit: Gnangarra/Wikimedia.
PHOTO: Senate Bill 312 would require reporting of all above-ground tanks storing toxic chemicals that are close to sources of surface-level drinking water in Indiana. Photo credit: Gnangarra/Wikimedia.
March 26, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS – A West Virginia chemical spill that contaminated the drinking-water source for 300,000 people last year is serving as a cautionary tale in Indiana.

Supporters of Senate Bill 312 say it would help prevent a similar environmental disaster in Indiana by protecting drinking-water sources.

Indra Frank, health project director for the Hoosier Environmental Council, explains the legislation would require owners of above-ground storage tanks to report the location and size of those tanks to state regulators.

"Some tanks are currently under reporting requirements from certain federal laws, but not all of them," Frank says. "This bill is intended to fill that gap, and have reporting of the rest of the tanks for Indiana."

There are more than 9,500 above-ground storage tanks in Indiana, and Frank says 450 of them are considered direct threats because of their proximity to a drinking-water source. The spill in West Virginia spread down a river for nearly 400 miles and was caused by two corroded, leaking ground storage tanks.

Frank points out that storage tanks contain industrial byproducts and pesticides – chemicals that, if released into the environment, could be harmful to people and wildlife. She says the bill aims to get a better picture of the threat the tanks pose, but feels it was gutted during the legislative process.

"Unfortunately, there were some amendments that were made as it went through the Senate that have weakened the bill," she notes. "In particular, 22 different exemptions were put in, and the size of the tanks that require reporting was made larger."

After the changes, the bill passed unanimously in the Senate; Frank says a House hearing is expected in the next week or two.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN