SW CLEAN Communities Presentation
Pictured left to right:  Matthew Lake, Executive Director of Merrillville Stormwater Utility; IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly; Merrillville Town Council President Tom Goralczyk; and two unidentified IDEM representatives from Indianapolis.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) presented the Town of Merrillville with an Indiana CLEAN Community award during a ceremony Tuesday, June 23rd, at its Town Council meeting.  CLEAN stands for Comprehensive Local Environmental Action Network.  The Indiana CLEAN Community Challenge is a free voluntary recognition program that recognizes and rewards Indiana cities, towns and counties for proactively managing environmental impacts associated with governmental operations.  “Merrillville is making a real commitment, and IDEM appreciates the hard work the town is putting into meeting the challenges set forth,” said IDEM commissioner Thomas Easterly.  “Merrillville residents can be proud and know their town’s efforts will make a difference.”   He said with the designation, the town could receive priority for some grants that IDEM has available.  

IDEM says Merrillville has worked to develop a Quality of Life Plan to minimize the potential environmental impacts from town operations and community-wide activities. Merrillville has selected five (5) environmental improvement initiatives to focus on during a three-year period, including the improvement of stormwater management, the development of additional wetland habitat acres and a plan to reduce litter in town parks. The town will also develop a curbside yard waste program and help businesses better manage stormwater runoff.  Expanding curbside yard waste collection could help alleviate some drainage issues because yard waste often ends up in storm sewers or ditches, which can cause water to collect after heavy rains.  Those practices could also include creating rain gardens and using permeable pavement.

Town departments, including Stormwater Utility, Public Works and Parks and Recreation, are working to achieve these goals.  “Becoming an Indiana Clean Community allows us to be more proactive to conserve resources, enhance the environment and overall improve the quality of life for our community,” said Matt Lake, Merrillville Stormwater Utility Executive Director.

IDEM Commissioner Easterly told the Merrillville Town Council that there are eleven communities in the state that have received the designation, and Merrillville is the fourth town to be recognized as a CLEAN Community.  In Northwest Indiana, Hobart and Portage are also part of the CLEAN Community Challenge.