If state officials were to look at those demographics, Denney said, they would discover that many rural communities where new wastewater systems are built aren’t growing, and will likely get smaller, making the regulations and requirements even more excessive.
“I don’t see IDEM doing any field work before these projects begin,” he said. “They have set regulations without flexibility.”
But IDEM commissioner Pigott said the state does allow communities flexibility when it comes to solving their pollution problems.
If a rural area forms a regional sewer district, he said, that entity has complete jurisdiction over new sewer projects. The sewer district board is made up of area residents and they have the power to decide whether they want to construct their own treatment plant, connect to a pre-existing one in a larger city, or some other option. Indiana currently has around 100 regional sewer districts.
“It’s clear that federal law requires regulation for water being discharged through a pipe,” he said. “We can’t really do anything about that. But we don’t tell communities what they have to do or what path they have to go down.”
Pigott said sewer districts and communities should look at growth trends in their area to determine the best solution for fixing failing septic systems, and he said IDEM and other state offices are available to offer advice or help at any time on different sewage treatment options.
“Communities should take those factors into consideration, not the state,” he said. “They know their communities best.”
But whatever option rural areas decide on will have a price tag for users.
In Macy, a town with around 200 residents in northern Miami County, residents are paying a new $48 monthly sewer fee to pipe their waste to a treatment plant a few miles away. The Macy project cost $1.2 million, and was completed last year.