The Environmental Impact of the Indianapolis Sewer System on Natural Waterways

Laura Allaben Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Paul Hanson Butler University
In the course of my undergraduate career, I have seen significant overlap between the disciplines of history and environmental studies in how we think about environmental issues through a historical lens. Through my research on Indianapolis waterways and sewer systems, and the environmental impact of latter, I will combine these two fields in an environmental history research project. My topic, broadly stated, is the history of water pollution in Indianapolis that is caused by the sewer system. This project will follow the development of the sewer system and water management in the city. This development also concerns the growth of Indianapolis as a city and the ways increasing population has influenced this issue. Along with researching the development of the sewer system, there will likely be overlap with the creation of the canals in Indianapolis and how these developments impacted the natural waterways of the city. The sewer system that Indianapolis currently has is a combined sewer overflow system. This system combines water runoff from rain with raw sewage. So, when it rains heavily these systems often overflow into our natural waterways without going through treatment facilities. This issue is what connects the topics of Indianapolis sewers and Indianapolis waterways. The issue of Indianapolis water and sewage is a pressing environmental and social concern for the city and is one that I am called to investigate. My methodology for this research topic, the sewer system of Indianapolis, is to look at this issue through a variety of lenses. I will primarily analyze this issue through a historical lens by utilizing primary source documents that detail when the system was put into place, how successful the system was initially, and that provides a chronology of the system’s breakdown or how the technology became obsolete. Along with a historical methodology, I plan on approaching this topic through the lens of urban development and growth.
Oral Presentation

When & Where

11:15 AM
Jordan Hall 201