The quality of surface waters in Indiana is poor according to a recent analysis of surface waters across the country. Although some improvements have been made over the past years in reducing industrial and sewage discharges, there are deficiencies and continued efforts to weaken the state’s environmental laws. The outcome is an extensive amount of polluted waters. According to the study, Indiana has the most miles of impaired waterways of any state. More than 24,000 miles of waterways are polluted by agricultural runoff. Steel industries are responsible for more than 100 cyanide and ammonia spills into Lake Michigan since 2015. All of this indicates that the policies that protect surface fresh water are not working.
Another problem in Indiana is the ongoing destruction of wetlands. This has largely occurred due to suburban sprawl that replaces rural land with new residential and commercial development. In 2021, the state legislature removed additional wetland protections in Indiana, which has experienced an 85 percent reduction in its original wetlands; the state ranks fourth in greatest acreage losses of wetlands across the United States.
All living organisms need water for survival. The presence of contaminants in surface and drinking water threatens the health and well-being of humans and all of God’s creatures. There is an ongoing need for protection of our diminishing fresh water resources, and this relies on elected officials to prioritize this critical natural resource. From the CHA World Water Day in 2016, “Good and gracious God, we pray for humility to see all the ways we take water for granted. Send Your Spirit to change the hearts of those who use water to create strife and conflict. Have mercy on those who are sick or in need because they cannot access safe water. Give us guidance on how to be better stewards of a finite resource.”
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.