Sierran Masthead

Conservationists Are Watchdogs of State Actions

by Bill Hayden
Chapter Conservation Chair

Brownfields cleanup

Application for brownfields (abandoned industrial sites) grants and loans were sent to local governments. Some took advantage of the grants and loans quickly. Workshops will be held to help towns with less expertise so they can get help cleaning up these sites. It is hoped that the program will be successful enough to make the General Assembly provide more funding.

Great Lake Initiative (GLI): Special Designations

A tenet of the Clean Water Act (CWA) is nondegradation. This means that if a stream is not safe for swimming and fishing, or if it is an Exceptional State or National Resource Water, then it should not receive more contamination under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).

The GLI made provisions for additional levels of antidegradation classifications under the CWA. Provision was made in Indianašs GLI rules to implement this. IDEM has been conducting a work group of industry representatives, IDEM staff, and a few environmentalists to reach as much consensus as possible on a new system for determining Tier I, II (Outstanding Waters), and III (Exceptional State Resource Waters) level bodies of water in the Great Lakes basins. Environmental representatives have reached consensus that new Tier III determinations should not just be based on existing water quality but also on the importance and urgency of protecting the water quality.

Triennial Review

IDEM's Office of Water Management is doing the Triennial Review of the Water Quality Standards, 8 years after they were last updated. The irony is that hundreds of expired NPDES water permits have not been rewritten with the water quality standards adopted in 1990. The Office of Water management insists on getting this job done in two years without hiring additional permit writers. The Office is trying to weaken the State Water Quality Standards Rule by making it more flexible. This is not an effective policy water cleanup.

The Office has also updated the List of Impaired Water bodies in Indiana‹the 303(d) List. Many stream reaches were deleted from the list because follow up monitoring had not be done. The Sierra Club complained that these stream reaches should have been left on the list until adequate monitors could demonstrate that they should be taken off. The Water Surveillance Branch has not received adequate staff to do the monitoring.

The Office is also attempting to adopt a rule to regulate the CWA Section 401 wetlands determinations. This law requires that before the Corps of Engineers can issue a permit to fill or drain a wetland, the statešs water protection agency must determine that the action will not degrade water quality.

Meetings with Commissioner

Environmental groups have been meeting more or less monthly with John Hamilton, IDEM Commissioner. Some issues raised are inadequate staffing in the Office of Water Management and Office of Environmental Response; lack of the opportunity to participate in the drafting of the National Environmental Performance Partnership document with the EPA; and the expired NPDES permits.

A most recent issue is IDEM's consideration without public participation of NIPSCOšs proposal to clean up coal gasification tar pits and burn the waste in power plants.

Free reports available

The 1998 Indiana Fish Consumption Advisory report has been released by the State Department of Health, (317) 233-7808.

Indiana State of the Environment 1998 is available. Request and read it. Return the card enclosed with the report to let the Commissioner know what you think. Call (800) 451-6027, ext. 31044, or (317) 233-1044. On the Web at www. state.in.us/idem/stateofe/index.html

The State of the Environment report is a good start. It only contains IDEM data on environmental quality but is lacking many things that I would like to know.


Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[6/28/02]efp

Summer 1998