State Investigating, Overseeing Cleanup Of Oil Discharge Into The White River

Sep 6, 2019

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is investigating the source of oil discharged from a sewer pipe into the White River in Indianapolis. A fisherman contacted officials after seeing the oil along the river’s banks. 

A contractor with the water, sewer, and gas utility Citizens Energy has been working to clean up the oil since Tuesday. Crews have placed booms in the water to absorb and contain the oil.

Citizens Energy director of environmental stewardship, Anne McIver, says she estimates the oil sheen on the river may be about eight feet across.

“We don't have any reason to believe that there have been any impacted fish. There's no public health risk that we believe is posed by this,” she says.

McIver says that the utility’s treatment plants have the ability to filter out minor amounts of oil from the river.

Jesse Kharbanda is the executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council. He says if an industrial company is to blame, it calls into question whether IDEM has enough staff to do the regular inspections necessary to prevent these incidents.

Late last month, two northwest Indiana steel companies spilled contaminants into the Little Calumet River — some of which is responsible for killing 3,000 fish.

“Had there been more frequent inspections by IDEM could both of these situations have been avoided?” Kharbanda asks.

If the weather holds up, McIver says the cleanup could be finished as early as Friday of next week.

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Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.