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Indiana's Water Rules Still Don’t Protect Lake Michigan
The public has until Jan. 30 to comment on a federally mandated water quality rule proposed for Indiana, which still falls short of protecting Lake Michigan.
Introduced in 2008 and since vetted at four public meetings, the draft rule contradicts the intent of federal antidegradation laws, which are meant to protect water quality while it still exceeds standards.
Instead, Indiana’s rule would trigger an antidegradation review only when a new or increased discharge would increase the level of a pollutant to the degree it poses a potentially “detrimental effect” on designated uses.
“Waiting to review a pollutant until it reaches levels where it could potentially make the water undrinkable, unswimmable or harm aquatic life misses the whole point that this is meant to keep clean waters clean,” said Lyman Welch, Alliance Water Quality Program manager.
- The rule includes several unjustified exemptions, and excludes phosphorus, sediment and other key pollutants for which no thresholds exist from protective provisions -- even though these pollutants are known to harm water quality.
- The rule exempts so-called “de minimis” – or low-level -- new pollution discharges from a federal requirement that the new pollution is a necessary byproduct of important local economic or social benefit.
Your Voice Needed
Comments must be postmarked, faxed or hand-delivered by Jan. 30
The result: Using the methods proposed in the draft rule, state regulators could permit multiple new low-level discharges of a pollutant that together have a significant cumulative impact on Lake Michigan’s water quality, without any evidence that the additional pollution is justified.
Welch said the draft rule doesn’t go far enough to protect Lake Michigan from new or increased pollution, and is inconsistent with federal requirements.
“Indiana’s draft standards, if adopted, would take us two steps backward in terms of protecting the Great Lakes at a time when we should be moving forward,” he said.
The Alliance is working with a coalition of groups in Indiana to strengthen the federally mandated rule, which sets a limit for how much new pollution can be discharged to Lake Michigan and other waterways in the state.
The federal Clean Water Act requires states to update their water quality standards at least every three years, and to develop and adopt statewide antidegradation policies for water quality standards.
Indiana's rules are being debated against the backdrop of the public outcry that followed the state’s issuance of a wastewater permit in 2007 that would have allowed British Petroleum’s Whiting, Ind. refinery to increase its pollution discharge to Lake Michigan. The BP permit drew concern that Indiana's law doesn’t do enough to protect water quality, and an independent review found the state's inconsistent antidegradation policies caused some of the confusion.
Indiana's current antidegradation requirements were developed under the Great Lakes Initiative of the 1990s and apply only to the Lake Michigan basin.
Comments must be postmarked, faxed or hand-delivered by Jan. 30.
Mail comments to:
LSA Document #08-764 (Antidegradation)
MaryAnn Stevens, Rules Development Branch
Office of Legal Counsel
Indiana Department of Environmental Management
100 North Senate Ave.
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2251.
Fax comments to: (317) 233-5517.
Hand-deliver comments to: Receptionist, 13th floor reception desk, Office of Legal Counsel, Indiana Government Center North, 100 N. Senate Ave, Room N1301, Indianapolis, Ind.
For more information:
See public notice, Indiana Department of Environmental Management >>
Press release >>