Court agrees with IDEM on 'public water system'

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Department of Environmental Management was correct in interpreting a federal safe drinking water act to mean that a public water system can be composed of separate, unconnected wells serving a larger area together, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

In IDEM v. Construction Management Associates L.L.C. and Hilltop Farms, No. 52A02-0711-CV-994, a three-judge panel reversed a Miami Circuit judge's ruling that the state agency had incorrectly determined that separate, unconnected wells constituted a public water system and required the apartment complex construction company to abide by water-testing requirements.

At issue was the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 designed to regulate the nation's public drinking water supply, and specifically Indiana's definition of whether water systems created during development of this apartment complex project fall within the definition of a public water system.

Construction Management Associates started the two-phase project in Miami County in 2000, hiring a drilling company to drill six separate wells to provide for water in each of the proposed six apartment buildings of each phase of Hilltop Farms.

IDEM classified this as a public water system, but the construction company disagreed and so did the trial court. Judge Rosemary Higgins Burke considered each building and well separately as if the buildings weren't part of a phase of a large project, and also reasoned that IDEM had given no fair warning of its "additional standards" requiring wells in a phase of an apartment complex to be considered one public system.

The term "system" is undefined in 327 Indiana Administrative Code 8-2-1(60), and the appellate court agreed with IDEM that the buildings, wells, and equipment owned on a single parcel are part of an orderly arrangement designed to provide drinking water for all tenants in the apartment complex.

"IDEM's interpretation ... is reasonable because it applies the common and ordinary meaning of 'system' and reflects Congress's intent to protect the public health," Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote. "We will not allow a developer to thwart the purpose of the SDWA simply by drilling unconnected wells."

The appellate court also disagreed that any "additional standards" were imposed but declined to go as far as IDEM wanted in finding that ownership, operation, and proximity are standards included in the statute.

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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.