Don’t Drink the Water

Welcome to Indiana, where taxes are low and regulations are lax. Just don’t get sick unless your employer provides health coverage, because we aren’t about to extend Medicaid, and by the way, you might want to boil your water before you actually drink it.

I’d been hearing concerns about Indianapolis Power and Light’s Harding Street plant for quite a while, so I finally investigated. What I found was disconcerting, to say the least. That plant is the biggest polluter in Marion County.

IPL burns coal in order to generate electricity, and it dumps the residue– toxic coal ash–  into unlined ponds next to the Harding Street plant. The plant is close to White River, and sits on an aquifer that serves a number of south side neighborhoods.

It won’t surprise anyone who has lived in the Hoosier state to discover that Indiana’s environmental regulations are among the weakest anywhere, and that the state does absolutely nothing about this–or about the other plants that produce coal ash. And we evidently have a lot of them; we rank second in the nation in the amount of coal ash we generate and we have more ponds than any other state.

We don’t inspect the dams and embankments that keep Indiana’s coal ash ponds from spilling. We don’t even require operators like IPL to monitor their own ponds and report what they find.

Meanwhile, the coal ash contaminates the groundwater we drink. A geologist hired by the Hoosier Environmental Council found concentrations of arsenic at twice the EPA standard for drinking water and mercury levels at 20 times the standard. Boron results were three times what the EPA says is safe for children.

Evidently, keeping business taxes low and regulations minimal–getting government “out of the way,” as the saying goes– is a much higher priority than clean drinking water.

“Let them eat cake” is so last century.

Let them buy Evian.


  1. Approximately five years ago I complained often and to many governmental offices regarding the vastly overgrown city owned drainage ditch running behind Raytheon faciity at East 21st and North Arlington. This ditch then runs through my small isolated neighborhood back yards and into Pleasant Run Creek. My complaint was regarding the weeds and trees in this fenced off ditch with 6-8 foot tall cement walls near streets it passes under and the rats coming and going onto neighboring properties which were not fenced or walled. Finally someone from Division of Public Health came out to investigate; her report showed low levels of e-coli which she said were safe levels. Contaminated water is in many unsuspected areas of Indianapolis, has always been ignored by local government and, as long as there is money for “payoffs” to protect businesses such as IPALCO and Raytheon, it will continue. Mary Moriarty-Adams was campaigning through the neighborhood at that time so I showed her the report from Public Health; she was upset by the e-coli reference. Somehow the overgrowth was cleared not long after my contact with her but no idea as to the status of e-coli or the source. I have occasionally seen water in Pleasant Run Creek being tested on the south side of East 16th Street where it runs out of our area. The general public is unprotected from these hazards which make our environment unsafe.

  2. Sadly, no surprises here. Republicans just LOVE dirty air & dirty water.

  3. I just hope that the Democrats are keeping a list of those areas where we rank like a third world country, and get ready to use it in our elections. I’ve heard a lot of talk about what a wonderful place Indiana is, and what a terrific governor we have because we have low taxes and almost no debt, but a starving tramp who keeps $1 million stuffed in a hole shouldn’t be emulated.

  4. Feb 2, 2014 a massive coal ash spill that coated 70-miles of a North Carolina River in toxic sludge. From: – Duke Energy, which owns the Dan River Steam Station, retired since 2012, estimates that 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash and up to 27 million gallons of water were released from the 27-acre storage pond.

    The nation’s most notorious coal ash spill was in 2008 at a plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Just a few days before Christmas, over 1 billion gallons of coal ash burst through a dam at a storage pond and damaged or destroyed two dozen homes and 300 acres of riverfront property.

    From WIKI – The Elk River chemical spill occurred on January 9, 2014 in West Virginia. Following the spill, up to 300,000 residents within nine counties in the Charleston, West Virginia metropolitan area were without access to potable water.

    Except for a few bursts of news when these events happened the Mega-Media has largely ignored the follow-up. Our Government seems obsessed with protecting Business-Industrial Community such as a lack of regulation or ignoring regulations concerning coal ash, industrial waste, factory farms, etc. Our Government displays a profound indifference to protecting it’s citizens.

  5. Living my first 30 years in northern Indiana where “goin’ to the lake” was one word, I could never understand why central Indiana used its waterways as a dump. Psssst! Don’t tell anyone….. Geist Reservoir is a poor substitute for a real lake. I’m spending my last 20 years in the Finger Lakes Region of upstate NY, where waterways are for recreation. Yes, taxes are higher, but you get what you pay for.

  6. When legislators start writing laws that will arrest polluters…ha ha…that’s so funny. That will never happen. For once, I’d like to see one of these CEO’s get arrested, photos splashed across the headlines of every major city newspaper in America, and see them end up in jail for polluting our drinking water, our rivers or neighborhoods. This is what government is supposed to do, protect us citizens from greedy, polluting corporations and yet, we are too busy working ourselves to the bone to stand up and protest. And guess who gets arrested? The protestors. It’s all messed up.

  7. AgingLittleGirl, this is just more evidence that we live in an oligarchy. The people don’t usually count, but when they have the chance to be counted they don’t rise up and demand to be heard, so we get the kind of government we deserve. I just wonder if people can be educated about this kind of thing so they at least vote in their best interests, when the people who are currently willing to make the biggest noise are the ones who have a radical and twisted understanding of what the society was designed to be. Two more “conservatives” (in quotes because they are really not conservative) have taken the Republican nomination from people who were not as radical. You can bet this is going to come back and bite us.

  8. If you think it’s bad in Indy, try the garbage dump we have in southern indiana where the air, water, and government is dirtier. Everyone thinks it’s “green” or “couldn’t be that bad” yet our local hospital is bragging about cancer clinic “growth” of 10% per year. The polllution silently drives Indiana’s bottom dwelling infant mortality, and doctors are expected to somehow cure everyone.

  9. Surely the State senators and reps are on that problem in So. Indiana, right? Oops. Their agenda has nothing to do with the quality of life, pollution control, and health. That’s one of those situations where the government you elect has some real consequences.

  10. Dr.Kreilein, don’t you wonder how much carcinogenic pollution is in the smoke that pours out of the Petersburg generating station? It’s the elephant in the living room that nobody seems to talk about.

  11. Thank you for raising broader public awareness of this issue. It’s time we all stood up and demanded that our government protect us from pollution. Many people have no idea there are 300 million gallons of toxic coal ash sitting in unlined ponds on the southside of Indianapolis, and millions and millions more throughout the state. There’s nothing in state or federal law that prevents coal ash from being disposed of in this way.

    By the way, boiling water won’t protect you from toxic pollutants like mercury, arsenic and boron. Boiling water only helps kill living organisms such as bacteria (E. coli).

  12. It’s no wonder that Indianapolis Public Schools have one of the highest proportions of special ed. enrollment in the state. Arsenic, mercury, boron, and then lead poisoning of soil, paint, and plumbing in older houses are even more dangerous to fetal and child health and development than to adults. All the school choices in the world can’t solve all the brain damage, birth defects, disabilities, and health problems such as the explosion of childhood asthma caused by these pollutants. Neither will dismissing teachers year after year for factors they can’t control.

    Suggestion: that the families of corporate boards and executives of polluting companies be required to live in the areas they pollute. Maybe that would stop further pollution and energize clean-ups the quickest.

  13. One of the reasons, I stopped drinking the “Old British Cuppa”
    was the water quality. Tea tastes terrible when made with tap
    water, I used to buy steam distilled water in gallon cartons at
    the store. However, a good strong brew of Coffee will mask the

    When considering who, has used the White River and then dumped
    the waste back in said river, before it reaches Indianapolis. No telling
    what’s in that water. I know, it’s been through the water treatment
    plant. Yuk

  14. And the water we have is the water we’ve got. That water you are drinking is millions of years old, and no more is being made.

  15. I was stuck in Indiana for five years, until I could escape to another state. The water in Indianapolis was basically undrinkable unless you were raised on the stuff. I stopped drinking tap water after I’d lived in the state for three days. That’s all it took for the tap water in my cats’ water bowls to etch the metal. Nothing that could do that was going in my body or theirs after that.

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