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FISHABLE, SWIMMABLE, OR SINKABLE? AN INDIANA CSO COMMUNITY'S WATERSHED/PUBLIC OUTREACH APPROACH TO KEEP ITS HEAD ABOVE WATER

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With Indiana's demanding regulations, how does a combined sewer community develop a program to improve water quality with the full support and involvement of the public? Some communities are doing this by taking a watershed/public outreach approach.

NPDES permits for the more than 100 combined sewer communities in Indiana require that CSO discharges do not cause or contribute to violations of water quality standards or to the impairment of designated or existing uses. Given the “fishable” and “swimmable” designation of all Indiana waters, the combined sewer communities cannot meet these requirements during wet weather events. This leaves the CSO communities with three alternative approaches: work with the regulators to establish wet weather water quality standards, work with the legislators to suspend or enact wet weather water quality standards, or work with the public to gain input and support for water quality improvements to meet wet weather water quality standards.

After Indiana issued its CSO Control Strategy in 1996, combined sewer communities worked with the State regulatory agency to try to establish wet weather water quality standards (WQS). When this failed, communities worked with the State legislators to enact Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 431 in 2000 that provided the framework for temporary suspension of recreational use following a wet weather event with the approval of a Use Attainability Analysis (UAA). The State regulatory agency issued CSO Long Term Control Plan (LTCP)/UAA guidance in 2001 that indicated only financial hardship would be considered in granting the UAA-based suspension. Consequently, Indiana communities have been put in the situation where the costs of their wet weather water quality improvement programs exceed perceived environmental benefits and are not acceptable to the public.

Some Indiana communities are now addressing the problem of obtaining a cost effective solution to meet wet weather water quality standards that is acceptable to the public by taking a watershed/public outreach approach, involving the stakeholders in the decision making process. The stakeholders are determining what the river uses are, how the uses should be protected, and how the water quality improvement program should be funded. An example of one of these communities is South Bend, Indiana. Figure 1 shows the history of national and Indiana wet weather regulations and South Bend's initiatives to meet these regulations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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