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Water Quality in Indiana

The mission of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) is to implement federal and state regulations to protect human health and the environment while allowing the environmentally sound operations of industrial, agricultural, commercial and governmental activities vital to a prosperous economy. The mission of IDEM’s Office of Water Quality (OWQ), under the oversight of the Assistant Commissioner of OWQ, is to concentrate on fulfilling IDEM’s mission where water quality is concerned. More specifically, OWQ is responsible for protecting public health and the environment by assessing the quality of surface water and groundwater through biological and chemical testing; regulating and monitoring drinking water supplies (including wellhead protection), wastewater treatment facilities and the construction of such facilities; and, protecting wetlands for proper drainage, flood protection and wildlife habitat. OWQ serves the citizens of Indiana through fulfilling responsibilities as set forth in the Clean Water Act.

Drinking Water Branch

The Drinking Water Branch carries out the requirements of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) which is designed to ensure that Public Water Supplies (PWS) deliver water to Hoosier homes and businesses that is adequate in quantity and is safe to drink. We do this by concentrating on the water from the source all the way to the tap. The branch’s main activities include performing inspections at PWS’s, verifying water quality compliance, issuing construction permits, following up on violations at PWS's, responding to citizen complaints, providing technical assistance, making sure that PWS’s are under appropriate supervision and generally ensuring that PWS's provide safe water to Indiana citizens.

The branch also administers the Source Water Protection Program and Indiana's Cross Connection Control Program which aid in the protection of drinking water. To help ensure the safety of citizens using private wells, the branch responds to individual private well complaints. The branch performs monitoring of ambient groundwaters and assists with the implementation of the State's Groundwater Standards to protect our groundwater resources.

Surface Water and Operations Branch

The Surface Water and Operations Branch contain two separate sections: the Wetland and Stormwater Section and the Operations Section.

The Wetland program addresses activities that impact Wetlands, Lakes and Streams to ensure that those activities maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of these waters. When a project is planned in Indiana that will result in the placement of fill material in a wetland, lake, river, stream, or other waters of the U.S., the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) must issue a Section 401 Water Quality Certification (401 WQC) or an Indiana Isolated Wetland permit for those waters that are waters of the state.

The Stormwater program issues NPDES permits for storm water discharges associated with industrial activities, active construction that results in land disturbances of one acre or more, and municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s). In addition to permitting, staff also conducts inspections and audits of permittees to assess compliance.

The Operations section provides several different functions for the IDEM Office of Water Quality. These include the budget, Wastewater Fees and Drinking Water Fees, and the Geothermal Program. The Operations section also includes the regulatory authority for Regional Water and Sewer Districts.

Wastewater Compliance Branch

The Wastewater Compliance Branch in OWQ conducts inspections of facilities with NPDES permits, provides operator assistance and training, administers the wastewater operator certification/continuing education program, enters compliance data into the federal ICIS database, reviews and evaluates compliance data, conducts informal enforcement actions through the issuance of violation letters, refers the most serious violations for formal enforcement, and assists in the enforcement process. In addition, the Compliance Branch is responsible for assuring laboratory proficiency. Compliance Branch staff also oversees and audits municipal pretreatment programs in the 47 municipalities with U.S. EPA delegated pretreatment programs. Unpermitted dischargers as well as permittees found to be in violation of their permit conditions may be referred to OWQ’s enforcement section for corrective actions. Information on reported bypass and overflow events is collected and recorded, so that sewer bypass/overflow monthly reports can be generated.

Wastewater Permitting Branch

The Wastewater Permitting Branch serves residents and businesses located in Indiana by issuing NPDES and construction permits to sources that discharge wastewater to stream, lakes, and other water bodies. The Municipal Permits Section, including the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Program, and Industrial Permits Section issue NPDES permits to point source discharges in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), federal laws, and state laws and regulations. The Permits Administration Section administers the non-storm water NPDES general permits program. The Facility Construction and Engineering Support Section issues construction permits related to wastewater treatment plant and sewer construction.

Watershed Assessment and Planning Branch

The Watershed Assessment and Planning Branch houses the watershed monitoring, assessment, Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Nonpoint Source (NPS) programs. Staff conducting the monitoring programs operate through the Probabilistic and Targeted Sections and collect water chemistry, E. coli, fish, macroinvertebrate, aquatic habitat and algae data. The data are analyzed and used for statewide and watershed specific surface water-related assessments, development of the Integrated Report, and planning and restoration projects. Support for the programs is provided by staff in the Technical and Logistical Support Section, which includes quality assurance/quality control of collected and submitted data, spatial and tabular data management, and laboratory, equipment, and vehicle management and logistics. The branch also supports water quality standards development, NPDES permitting and compliance activities, public health advisories, such as for fish consumption and blue-green algae, volunteer monitoring efforts through the Hoosier Riverwatch and Clean Lakes Programs, and the IndianaMap. To better share this data with the public, web map applications such as the Fixed Station Water Quality Monitoring Locator and the Impaired Waters (e303d) application are also available along with the new story map feature as demonstrated with the Upper White River Water Quality Story Map.