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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.

Compliance Branch

The 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.

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 ground waters and assists with the implementation of the State's Ground Water Standards to protect our ground water resources.

Permits Branch

The Water Permits 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 Facility Construction and Engineering Section issues construction permits related to wastewater treatment plant and sewer construction.

Surface Water, Operations, and Enforcement Branch

The Surface Water, Operation, and Enforcement Branch contain three separate sections the Wetland and Storm Water Section, Enforcement Section as well as the Operations Section.

The Wetland portion of the branch addresses activities in 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 impact a wetland, lake, river, stream, or other Water 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.

The Storm Water Program manages the permitting of storm water discharges associated with industrial activities, with active construction that results in land disturbances of one acre or more, and Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s).

The Operations Section of the Branch deals with several different functions for the Office of Water Quality. These include the budget, Wastewater Fees and Drinking Water Fees, Regional Sewer Districts, and the Geothermal Program.

Finally, the last section of the Branch concentrates on all enforcement issue within the OWQ.

Watershed Assessment and Planning Branch

The Watershed Assessment and Planning Branch houses the watershed programs as well as the water quality assessment and monitoring programs. The monitoring programs operate through the Probabilistic and Targeted Sections that provide for the various programs that collect everything from water chemistry, E. coli, and sediment to fish, macroinvertebrate, and algae data. Aquatic habitat data is also collected. The data is then analyzed and used for statewide and watershed specific surface water-related assessments and planning projects. Also managed through the Branch are Watershed grants (Nonpoint Source and Water Quality Planning) and the TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) Program. Quality assurance/quality control and support for the programs is provided by staff in the Technical and Logistical Support Section, which includes spatial and tabular data management, quality review of collected and submitted data, 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, the volunteer monitoring network, and the IndianaMap.