- Associated Press - Monday, December 5, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana’s aging water infrastructure needs $2.3 billion in immediate repairs and $815 million a year in additional maintenance to protect human health and prevent the loss of about 50 billion gallons of water a year, according to a new study.

The Indiana Finance Authority’s study determined that the state’s 554 independent water systems are struggling to maintain quality service as their underground networks reach or exceed their useful lives, the (Northwest Indiana) Times (https://bit.ly/2h7mtYY ) reported.

“Leakage from these old mains has recently become urgent,” the report states. “If Indiana addresses the problem now, the cost of maintaining the system will not cause societal or economic disruption.”

Most of Indiana’s pipes were installed after World War II, but some date back to the 1890s. Corroded by age, some the state’s 46,000 miles of hazardous water pipes are made of lead or other metals that could potentially release chemicals into distributed drinking water, which could be harmful to residents’ health.

“The risks posed are unprecedented, and the problem is challenging because of the unforeseen difficulty of locating the problem pipes,” the report says.

The report recommends that Indiana lawmakers allocate general fund appropriations to assist with the immediate water infrastructure needs.

“The goal is for the state to begin working to support the assets that improve everyone’s life and the health of the natural environment,” the report says.

Republican Sen. Ed Charbonneau, who commissioned the study, said the report will serve as the foundation for discussions during the 2017 legislative session. He said the results show how Indiana manages a necessity that’s often taken for granted.

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