Sierran Masthead

Indiana Is Way Behind in Cleaning Up 208 Waterways

by Sandy Miles

Nearly 30 years after the Clean Water Act promised Americans clean water, most of us still live within 10 miles of a polluted river, stream, lake, or seacoast. Indiana has listed 208 of its waterways as polluted. But the state has so far submitted plans for cleaning up only one, and the Sierra Club has submitted a letter to EPA asserting that plan is seriously deficient.

In December 2000, after 2 years of study, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) submitted its plan to the EPA for cleaning up Kokomo Creek. Kokomo Creek, part of the Wabash River watershed, lies east of Kokomo. The cleanup plan did not include adequate water-quality data to establish an appropriate course of action.

Especially noteworthy was that the plan included strategies for cleaning up E. coli (bacterial) pollution, although no bacterial water sampling was provided. On the other hand, PCBs were identified as a pollutant in the creek, but no plans were included for addressing that problem.

No deadlines were set for implementing the clean up. The plan to reduce pollution from agricultural runoff was entirely voluntary, and IDEM’s backup plan in case the voluntary plan fails was “further education.”

A key piece of the law requiring clean-up plans for polluted waterways is the TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) program. Under the law, states are required to:

  • Identify waters that are polluted
  • Identify pollutants that cause this pollution
  • Prioritize these waters
  • Establish TMDLs to meet water-quality standards

An individual TMDL plan must be developed for each pollutant. The plan must measure the pollutant, identify the sources of that pollutant, and map a strategy for restoring that stream to state water-quality standards.

Indiana originally set the goal for all state surface waters to meet its water-quality standards by 2005. Now its schedule for establishing cleanup (TMDL) plans extends to 2013. The Kokomo Creek plan was the first one IDEM has submitted. The Corps of Engineers is assisting on a plan for the Grand Calumet in northwest Indiana. IDEM has stated it plans to submit eight more TMDL plans in 2001.

As this publication went to press, IDEM has not determined which waterways will be included on this list. The Sierra Club will contact members in areas where cleanup plans (TMDLs) are scheduled for development as soon as the list is released. You can find an inventory of Indiana’s impaired waterways at

If you wish to assist with the chapter’s Clean Water Campaign, contact the chapter office at (317) 466-9992.

Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[8/11/02]efp

Spring 2001