Progress Toward Controlling Combined Sewer Overflows

Progress Toward Controlling Combined Sewer Overflows

by Tom Neltner and Sandra Wilmore, Save the Dunes Conservation Fund

Indiana’s Water Pollution Control Board accepted the “No Net Increase in Sewage Overflows” citizens’ petition for rulemaking on September 12, 2001. The vote was 9-0. This means that the petition, which was circulated by a collaboration of groups including the Sierra Club, Izaak Walton League, Hoosier Environmental Council, Save the Dunes, and Improving Kids’ Environment, met the criteria laid out in the law. Hearings will now be held to address the issues raised in the petition, including requiring that new connections to combined sewer systems will not increase the amount of sewage overflowing into Indiana’s waterways. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) currently approves of new connections even though they increase the sewer overflows from combined sewer systems.

There will be between three and five hearings held, most likely in Northwest Indiana, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, and a southern location yet to be determined; the schedule has not been set. Based on the results of the hearings, environmentalists hope that the Water Pollution Control Board will direct the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to issue a first notice of rulemaking – the first step in the state’s four-step rulemaking process. Environmentalists intend to address the following additional concerns through the rulemaking process:

  • Is a five-year rainfall the best basis for evaluating whether there is no net increase?
  • Do we need an exemption for homes or neighborhoods connecting because of failing septic systems?
  • What are the compliance methods and what is the overall cost of complying with the rule?
  • How will a CSO community be able to certify compliance?
  • How will the proposal fit with existing sewer connection bans and early warning notices?
  • How does this compare with standards for connections to sanitary sewers?

Thanks and congratulations to all who have supported the petition! The coalition of environmental groups will work to ensure a strong presence at each hearing as well as good media coverage. Indiana residents who wish to be kept updated on the hearing dates, get a copy of the petition, or otherwise get involved, are encouraged to contact Save the Dunes at 219-879-3564 or visit their website: www.savedunes.org/

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