State of Indiana Water Quality Standards
The State of Indiana has developed minimum water quality standards that all waters of the state are required to meet. The Indiana Water Quality Standards rule states, "the goal of the state is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the state."
To achieve this goal there are specific limits for various pollutants outlined in the rule. City, county, and state government agencies collect samples from streams, rivers, and lakes throughout the state to determine if the water quality standards are being met.
Over the past 10 to 15 years, a large number of samples have been collected from the White River and it tributaries in the Madison County area in order to determine compliance with the Indiana Water Quality Standards. These samples were collected and analyzed by numerous government agencies and private organizations. A detailed analysis of all available sample results from the past 10 years indicates that E. coli is the only pollutant that was found in excess of the water quality standards in a significant number of the samples.
E. coli is present in the intestinal tracts of all warm-blooded animals and is used to indicate the presence of fecal matter in water. It is true that some types of E. coli can make you sick, but fecal matter can also contain an array of other bacteria and viruses causing various illnesses.
The analysis of the available data indicates that a high percentage of the samples collected from the White River in the Madison County area after rain events contain E. coli in amounts exceeding the water quality standards. E. coli amounts in excess of the water quality standard were also observed in samples collected during dry weather periods. This leads to the conclusion that E. coli is entering the White River through a number of different sources.
This includes all of the sources that contribute to the concentration of E. coli present in the White River when it enters the Anderson area from the upstream direction. Initial findings indicate that this source represents a significant contribution to the total E. coli pollutant load observed in the Anderson area.
Wastewater Treatment Plants
When the weather is dry the City of Anderson Wastewater Treatment Plant does an excellent job treating all of Anderson's, Edgewood's, Chesterfield's, and Daleville's sanitary sewage. But during storms or snow melt events, the amount of combined sewage in the sewer system can exceed the treatment capacity of the wastewater treatment plant. When this occurs combined sewage is discharged into the White River from outfalls specified in Anderson's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. The city is working to address this issue through the Combined Sewer System Long Term Control Plan.
Combined Sewer Overflows
Combined sewers are designed to carry both sanitary sewage and rainwater in the same pipes. CSOs discharge when the volume of rainwater entering the combined sewer system causes the combination of sanitary sewage and rainwater in the system to exceed the capacity of the pipes that carry waste to the wastewater treatment plant. The points in the combined sewer system designed to relieve this excess capacity are CSO discharge points. During significant rain events combined sanitary sewage and rainwater is discharged to the White River at these locations. The city is currently working to determine the contribution to the total E. coli load from CSO discharges. The city is working to develop a Combined Sewer System Long Term Control Plan to address the CSO issue.
For additional information about Anderson's combined sewer system continue reading.
Urban stormwater includes runoff from streets, parking lots, rooftops, and lawns that enters the stormwater collection system through catch basins placed along city streets. The concentrations of E. coli in urban stormwater are lower than some other sources, but it is still a potentially significant source because of the large volume of stormwater that enters the White River when it rains.
Learn more about what the city is doing to control pollution from urban stormwater sources
Agricultural sources of E. coli are primarily from livestock operations. E. coli from livestock operations can be deposited directly into streams that discharge into the White River or deposited on the ground and carried to a stream by surface runoff. In some cases the contribution of E. coli from livestock operations may take an extended period of time to reach the White River from tributary ditches and streams. Several county, state, and national level water quality programs have been developed to address pollution from agricultural sources.
Visit the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District website
to learn more about agricultural programs that protect water quality.
Failing Septic Systems
There are several thousand homes that are serviced by septic systems in Madison County. When these systems fail to operate properly untreated sewage can enter drainage tiles, the groundwater supply, or percolate to the surface and eventually enter streams that discharge to the White River. The amount of E. coli contributed from failing septic systems is difficult to quantify. The city continues to extend sewer service to areas served by septic systems when it is appropriate and the Madison County Health Department diligently investigates citizen concerns regarding failing septic systems. It is essential to properly maintain your septic system to ensure proper operation.
To learn more about how to properly maintain your sewer system visit: