The Hoosier Environmental Council is working with state legislators in an effort to find additional funding to help increase staffing at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to help keep the public's drinking water safe. (Courtesy photo)
Indiana has 48 people working for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management who oversee the state’s 4,043 public drinking water systems. That’s too much work for too few people, according to Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council.
“We’ve experienced economic growth and yet we’ve seen this precipitous decline in the money for IDEM,” Kharbanda said, adding that his agency decided to focus on drinking water, a resource that affects every Hoosier.
In 2005, there were 62 people working in the drinking water section at IDEM. That number has declined through various budget cuts to the current 48, something Kharbanda believes needs to be addressed by the state Legislature.
The council has proposed using $780,000 from the state’s general fund to pay for 12 additional staff to ensure the public’s drinking water remains safe.
IDEM has had repeated budget cuts over the past 13 years, according to Indra Frank, environmental health and water policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council. Frank recently made a graph of the department’s budget for each year, correcting for inflation.
“What we see is that the total expenditures for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management were 18 percent lower in 2017 compared to 2007,” Frank said. She chose 2007 to compare with the latest figures because that was during Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration, which was considered fiscally conservative and not likely to spend excessive amounts on IDEM.