New Law Opposed by Environmental Groups

New Law Opposed by Environmental Groups

The short (2000) session of the Indiana General Assembly ended with a very bad bill being signed into law on March 17. Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 431 will weaken water quality standards for Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) and will weaken protection for Outstanding State Resources Waters (OSRWs) such as Lake Michigan. The bill was opposed by all environmental groups.

There was a lot of discussion and amendments during the last few weeks of debate, and the bill was improved regarding the CSO issue to require Environmental Protection Agency approval. The law now requires that the public be told about each and every overflow of raw sewage into our rivers. In this positive step, the law specifically requires that:

“The water pollution control board . . . shall adopt a rule before September 1, 2001, establishing requirements for community notification by NPDES permit holders of the potential health impact of combined sewer overflows whenever information from any reliable source indicates that: a discharge or discharges from one (1) or more combined sewer overflow points is occurring; or (2) there is a reasonable likelihood that a discharge or discharges from one (1) or more combined sewer overflow points will occur within the next twenty-four (24) hours.” (Section 23)

Unfortunately, the basic goal of SEA 431 remains to suspend water quality standards for CSO communities based on site- specific economic analyses. The worst provisions are attacks on OSRWs such as Lake Michigan that allow for additional pollution. One option for polluters is a $500,000 fee paid to a special fund of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for OSRW “improvement.” The bill also alters the 303(d) listing procedures for impaired waters.

Many environmentalists contend that the SEA 431 violates the Clean Water Act by allowing for backsliding and the additional degradation of waters. The Izaak Walton League has authority to pursue legal action on this issue.

The Act requires several rulemakings, in addition to the one cited above, before it can be implemented. Save the Dunes will follow these rulemakings closely and advocate for improved protection of our water resources at every opportunity.

Rulemakings related to water resources already occupy an increasing amount of time for Save the Dunes. Just recently, we were involved in the 401 Water Quality Certification and Wetland Water Quality Standards Rulemaking. Now before the Indiana Water Pollution Control Board are rules pertaining to groundwater, wastewater pretreatment, and antidegradation procedures for OSRWs. In the future will be the rulemakings related to SEA 431. These rules can work for or against environmental protection. We’re pushing them as close to the former as possible!

Save the Dunes Conservation Fund, 444 Barker Road, Michigan City, IN 46360, PH: (219) 879-3564, FX: (219) 879-3793, email: sand@savedunes.org

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