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Bill Would Require Industrial Companies To Notify Water Utilities Of Spills

By Rebecca Thiele, IPB News | Published on in Business, Environment, Health, Law
An aerial view of the ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor facility in 2014. (Ken Lund/Flickr)
An aerial view of the ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor facility in 2014. (Ken Lund/Flickr)

A state bill aims to better notify water utilities of industrial spills. It comes a few months after a chemical spill from northwest Indiana steelmaker ArcelorMittal killed about 3,000 fish in a Lake Michigan waterway.

The bill, authored by Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville), would require the party responsible to notify water utilities and water treatment plants when a spill or other release could cause a threat to their operations.

Justin Schneider is the director of consumer affairs for Indiana American Water — which had to temporarily shut down its Ogden Dunes facility due to the ArcelorMittal spill. He says when spills happen, companies might notify state and local governments.

“We’re not necessarily getting those phone calls. And this bill is really to ensure that that all water utilities that could be impacted around the state would get a phone call,” Schneider says.

The Indiana Manufacturers Association also supports the bill, but says there are still details that need to be worked out — like at what point companies that exceed their chemical limits should alert water utilities.

Greg Ellis with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce says the state Environmental Rules Board will also have to make sure that there are no redundancies with what notifications companies are already required to do.

IMA Assistant Vice President of Governmental Affairs Malika Butler says this bill is more reasonable than a similar measure by Rep. Pat Boy (D-Michigan City) which didn’t pass committee. It would have required companies to alert all those potentially affected when it exceeds its chemical limits — even if those stakeholders wouldn’t be affected.

“We wouldn’t want to stress out a community on something that may not be a threat to human health,” Butler says.

Hatfield’s measure passed unanimously in the House and now moves on to the Senate for consideration.

Contact Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.