Sierran Masthead

Bad Water Bills Run Through Legislature

A bill that would downgrade water-quality protection in the state was being fought in the General Assembly by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups as we went to press.

Even as the White River chemical spill remained unsolved, Senate Bill 431 passed the Senate by a 42 to 8 vote. Nevertheless, because the bill tries to make the Indiana Department of Environmental Management violate the federal Clean Water Act, environmentalists have created a great deal of pressure to amend the bill in the House. As the bill headed to the House in February, chapter lobbyist Bill Hayden said, “This bill would not be needed if IDEM was given its necessary resources and if the governor would insist on a well-managed Department of Environmental Management. I expect major amendments to the bill.”

SB 431 allows Indiana cities with combined sanitary and storm sewers to be temporarily exempt from water-quality standards for several days after a storm, and to release sewage into waterways when it rains, if they have a cost-effective--though not necessarily adequate--plan approved by IDEM to manage sewer overflows.

The bill would replace the social-and-economic-hardship criteria needed for a variance with a calculation based only on cost effectiveness. The criteria would eliminate non-economic considerations required by EPA guidance.

The cities are trying to avoid cleaning up their combined sewer overflows rather than finding financial resources to solve the problem.

Another bill, SB 432, was primarily an Eli Lilly Co. and Ispat Inland Steel bill designed to prevent the Wabash River from being designated an Outstanding State Resource Water and from gaining the protection that the designation brings.

The bill would have allowed increased pollutants, provided that they did not violate state standards and that the permittee would perform other projects that result in an overall improvement in water quality in Outstanding State Resource Waters.

SB 432 was killed for political reasons but most likely will be amended to SB 431, said Hayden.

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Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[10/8/02]efp

Spring 2000