Mundy not alone in city’s water pollution fightSeptember 4, 2018
By ALLEN LAMAN
JASPER — When you hear the word “pollution,” Jasper Stormwater Coordinator Chad Mundy knows where your mind goes. Smokestacks. Oil spills. Trash littering. The big, brash, visible pollutants we’ve become most familiar with as a society.
Mundy fights another contaminant from his cluttered office in Jasper City Hall. He is the only member of the city’s stormwater department, an entity charged with fighting water pollution by aligning the city’s stormwater systems and ongoing project sites with mandates from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, educating the public, responding to cases of illegal dumping of substances other than water into city storm drains, and much, much more.
“People think when it goes underground it just magically disappears,” Mundy said of stormwater and other pollutants poured down storm drains. “Or it goes to a waste treatment plant and it gets cleaned before it goes back into the river.”
That is not the case. The majority of water that enters storm drains goes straight into the Patoka River — untreated and unfiltered, where it can kill aquatic life if contaminated, and make the cleaning process harder before it enters homes as drinking water.
Larger cities have more personnel in their stormwater departments, but Mundy is not alone in his fight. City Engineer Chad Hurm gives him a hand when he can. Jeff Warren with the Geographic Information Systems department maps storm sewers. City street department employees complete storm sewer projects and drainage inspections, and all city employees are trained to look for issues like illicit discharges into drains or sediment resting in the street, and are asked to contact Mundy if they see something that needs addressed.
“There’s certain parts of the job I do by myself, and there’s certain parts of my job I try to empower [others to help with],” he said, adding that all city employees are the “eyes and ears” of the department.
City Hall may be Mundy’s headquarters, but much of his work is completed in the field, and two days are never the same for the Jasper man. He wears a lot of hats and has to change them often.
One day, he may receive a call from a Jasper resident having drainage problems at their home, and he’ll fix the issue or suggest a solution. The next, he might make monthly inspection rounds at project sites, like the new Jasper Elementary School that address issues like sediment runoff and drainage blockage. Mundy is also passionate about the public education aspect of his job, and stressed the importance of informing city residents about dumping things down the drain.
“Stormwater ... it’s not as visual,” he said, comparing water pollution to air and land pollution. “You don’t see it. It’s not as big in the news. I think someday in the near future it’s going to be a big problem, or as big of a problem as the others. And right now I don’t think it’s dressed as big a problem as some of the other type of pollutants.”
He said having clean water is as important as having clean air and a clean land environment.
Mundy has been the lone man in the stormwater department for about a decade. Looking forward on a global level, he sees water pollution and the lack of water becoming an issue. In the next 20 years, he said supplying clean drinking water will become one of the biggest issues worldwide.
“There’s not a fountain that’s bringing up new water,” he said. “All the water in the world that we have is all the water that we’re ever going to have.”
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