Conservation group angry at how Indiana now tracks polluted waterways
By David Handelman
Published January 31, 2008
Indiana has a new way of listing which waterways are polluted; a Chicago environmental group has a problem with what’s now being left off the list.
The Alliance for the Great Lakes said this week that contaminated waterways are being “de-listed” from an impaired waterway list that Indiana officials submit to the EPA. This means that waterways that may be contaminated with toxins such as mercury and PCBs will be left off the contamination list.
Many waterways on the list run directly into Lake Michigan.
But Indiana officials deny that they are doing anything to jeopardize public health.
The new methodology used by Indiana Department of Environmental Management takes waterways off the impaired waterway list when it doesn’t have data on them.
Bruno Pigott, assistant commissioner for IDEM, stressed that it is “absolutely incorrect” that waterways are being de-listed. He maintained that the new methodology is more precise.
“If we don’t have data on them,” Pigott said, “we can’t judge them as contaminated or clean.”
State assessments on waterways in Indiana are done on a rotating basis, so there is a chance that waterways that haven’t been sampled could be impaired or unimpaired.
Joel Brammeier, vice president for policy for the Alliance of the Great Lakes, said that taking waterways off the list that have not had data collected on them is not reason enough.
“What it means for the great lakes is that waterways that deserve cleanup might not get the attention they deserve simply because we lack the data,” Brammeier said.
Pigott said that that they can’t report on what they don’t have and that the list of impaired waterways can be a useful tool for local residents.
“Here’s what we found and what we know about, people can use this list,” Pigott said. “If we don’t have the data we can’t judge them as contaminated or clean,” Pigott said.
Brammeier said that although officials don’t have data on these waterways, it is imperative that they remain on the list.
“If they are taken off the list, they might not receive corrective action in a way that restores their health,” Brammeier said.