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Editorials

Indiana worst in water pollution

Sen. Richard Lugar and his Republican primary-election opponent, Richard Mourdock, need to read a recent report from a national environmental policy group before their next tirade against environmental regulations.

At their debate on Wednesday night, both Lugar and Mourdock advocated relaxing government regulations on businesses. Meanwhile, Indiana leads the nation in the amount of toxic pollution companies are dumping into waterways.

The report from Environment America found that Indiana factories discharged more than 27 million pounds of pollutants into the state’s rivers and streams, the highest amount from any state. Virginia was ranked second with more than 18 million pounds of toxic discharge. The study is based on 2010 data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory.

According to the study, one of the worst polluters was the AK Steel plant in Rockport, Ind., which had the highest discharges into the Ohio River in 2010. The company released 24 million pounds – more than two-thirds of the pollutants discharged into the Ohio River from the states that line the river.

The cleaning process at AK Steel uses nitric acid, which is treated and then released into the river as nitrate-rich wastewater. “That’s just what they reported discharging in the Ohio River in Indiana,” said Shelley Vinyard, a spokeswoman from the Washington-based environmental group. “They also have a plant in Ohio where they also discharge into the Ohio River.”

Vinyard said, “The Ohio River was, by far, one of the most polluted waterways in the nation.” The Grand Calumet came in second.

Complaints about how environmental regulations are handcuffing businesses are a common refrain from many Hoosier candidates. Unfortunately, there is too little reflection on why pollution limits are needed. State leaders are quick to tout Indiana’s lax regulations to attract employers. But employers don’t want to bring their employees to a state that is an environmental dump. Quality of life also matters and Indiana’s poor record on environmental protection is an embarrassment for all Hoosiers.

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