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Lawsuit alleges NIPSCO waste tainted town's water
Town of Pines residents, EPA group sue utility
By Tom Coyne
Associated Press

SOUTH BEND -- Two women from the town of Pines and an environmental group sued the Northern Indiana Public Service Co. on Thursday, trying to force the energy utility to provide clean water to residents of the northwest Indiana community.

The federal lawsuit alleges that NIPSCO disposed of 1 million tons of coal combustion waste in a landfill near the town of Pines. The complaint says that waste is now polluting the ground water around the small community near Lake Michigan.

"This contamination renders the water supply for the citizens of the town of Pines and others undrinkable because of the threat of dangerous constituents harmful to human health in the drinking water," the lawsuit says.

In a prepared statement, NIPSCO said it "remains committed to working on a satisfactory resolution to the ground water problem in the town of Pines."

NIPSCO said it has worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on a project to provide an alternate water supply to some areas of Pines by extending municipal water service from nearby Michigan City. The project also involved closing some private wells. The effort was "substantially completed to the EPA's satisfaction" last month, NIPSCO said.

NIPSCO, headquartered in Merrillville, has nearly 700,000 natural gas customers and 430,000 electric customers across the northern third of Indiana.

Jan Nona, a resident of Pines who filed the lawsuit along with the Hoosier Environmental Council, said she did not want to see a lawsuit filed, but said the group had run out of options.

"We want them to take steps to get this mess cleaned up," she said.

The lawsuit contends NIPSCO is violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act through its "deliberate and continued failure to address the endangerment created by the waste it generates," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit contends that "a judgment declaring that NIPSCO has contributed, and is contributing, to disposal which may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or environment" is needed because "nothing less than such an order will suffice to put an end to the harmful pollution created by the waste."

The lawsuit says that on Jan. 24, 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered NIPSCO and "other respondents" to pay the costs of 130 homes in the town to hook up to municipal water lines, leaving about 260 homes to continue to use their wells.

"We want to make them supply clean, safe drinking water to our total area," said Nona, whose home is not connected to a municipal line."

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