March 13, 2019
Hammond, IN – Today, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Alliance for the Great Lakes and Hoosier Environmental Council filed a 60-day notice under the Clean Water Act for a potential lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its failure to act to approve or disapprove Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s (IDEM) impaired waters list submitted on August 17, 2018. Under the Clean Water Act, the U.S. EPA is required to approve or disapprove of the submitted list within 30 days of its submission.
Many of the streams and rivers in Northeast Indiana that flow into the Maumee River and then into western Lake Erie are listed as impaired in IDEM’s August 2018 report to U.S. EPA. Western Lake Erie has been plagued by harmful algal blooms for many summers because of nutrient pollution due to agricultural runoff from manure and fertilizers into waterways that are part of several watersheds in Indiana and Ohio.
“The U.S. EPA has a legal obligation to promptly address Indiana’s findings that its rivers are impaired by pollution,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, and attorney for the environmental groups sending the notice of intent to sue letter. “U.S. EPA’s failure to approve or deny IDEM’s report within the statutory 30-day period and to require enforceable standards to reduce the sources of that contamination violates the Clean Water Act. The U.S. EPA cannot dodge and duck its legal responsibilities under the Clean Water Act to make sure that Indiana takes the necessary action to reduce agricultural runoff of phosphorus pollution that is causing impaired waters that harm public health and the environment in the Lake Erie basin.”
“The Clean Water Act can protect our drinking water and public health, but only if U.S. EPA follows its own rules,” said Alliance for the Great Lakes President and CEO Joel Brammeier. “By failing to make a decision about Indiana’s impaired waters list, EPA is kicking the can down the road and slowing progress on cleaning up Lake Erie. With this notice, we are holding them accountable.”
“The Hoosier Environmental Council is counting on EPA to respond and take their long overdue actions so that we can see more progress on Indiana’s waterways,” said Indra Frank, MD, Environmental Health & Water Policy Director at the Hoosier Environmental Council.
Every two years, state agencies are required to submit an integrated report to U.S. EPA that includes their list of impaired waterways. For waters suffering from nutrient pollution, IDEM or the U.S. EPA must then design and implement enforceable regulatory standards to reduce the agricultural runoff of phosphorus pollution from fertilizers and CAFO manure that is causing the impairment. Moreover, these Indiana waterways then flow into western Lake Erie, causing toxic algae blooms that threaten safe drinking water, harm fisheries and impair outdoor recreation.