by Sandra L. Wilmore and Tom Neltner, Improving Kids’ Environment
In November, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management conducted five public hearings across the state to address the “No Net Increase in Sewage Overflows” citizens’ petition for a rulemaking. The petition was promoted by several environmental organizations, including Improving Kids’ Environment and Save the Dunes, and accepted by the Indiana Water Pollution Control Board in September. The proposed rule requires that new connections to combined sewer systems must not increase the amount of sewage overflowing into Indiana’s waterways. Attendance at the hearings varied from 15 to 50 people, and most sessions had well balanced representation. Concerned citizens provided input at all but one hearing. According to Tom Neltner, President of Improving Kids’ Environment, their personal statements about water and the impacts of sewage were powerful. Primary opposition came from city and town officials who, along with some developers, mischaracterized the proposal as requiring “zero overflows” and forcing the cities to handle a 5-year rainfall without an overflow.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management accepted written comments through November 21, and will now develop recommendations that will be included in a packet for consideration by the Water Pollution Control Board. The issue is scheduled to be addressed at the December or January meeting.