Indianapolis tap water ranks poorly in tests

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Mary Milz/Eyewitness News

Marion County - Indianapolis has made a top ten list, but one it probably won't tout. The Environmental Working Group ranks Indianapolis 90th out of the nation's 100 largest cities when it comes to water quality. But some say it's all in how you read the results.

The EWG looked at water tests done by water utilities across the country from 2004 to 2009.

It looked at the total number of chemicals detected, the percentage of those chemicals found and the highest average level for an individual pollutant.

For instance, there were 11 chemicals found in Indy's water supply that exceed health guidelines, while the national average is four.

Veolia spokesperson Paul Whitmore said he didn't think the 90th ranking was "representative of the quality of water in Indianapolis...Our water continues to meet federal and state drinking water standards."

Whitmore questioned taking the highest average level for a chemical.

"When you look at a single point in time, that number may be higher or above the overall standard we're expected to meet," he said.

Former EPA and IDEM commissioner Glen Pratt also questioned some of the findings.

Pratt said given Indiana's agricultural history, Atrazine has long been a concern. He said the state required the city to do extensive testing to make sure Atrazine was below the limit.

The EWG shows that from 2004 to 2009, Indianapolis conducted 17,368 tests for water quality while the national average was 420.

Pratt said, "So the more tests you have and the more accurate they are, the more positive values you'll have."

He added that St. Louis, "which did almost no testing," wound up with a much better score, even though it too has dealt with high levels of Atrazine.

Still, Pratt said there are things that need to be addressed when it comes to the city's water supply.

One is upgrading the treatment process to reduce chemical byproducts, something the utility has begun doing.

There's also "the the other long-term who knows what's out there that we need to be looking at," Pratt said.

The EWG said 315 pollutants have been found in the nation's tap water since 2004 and that more than half aren't regulated by the EPA. (Check your water quality here.)

It's called for new safety standards, something Pratt supports even if there's a higher cost involved.