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Federal cuts slow water studies

– Federal budget cuts and lab testing have slowed investigations into substances found floating on two northwestern Indiana waterways, state and federal agencies said.

The Times reported Monday that an investigation into an oil sheen on a Lake County ditch has gone on for three months, while another probe into a glittery film on Lake Michigan in Porter and LaPorte counties has taken more than three weeks.

The Environmental Protection Agency took the lead on the investigation into the oil sheen on the seven-mile Cady Marsh Ditch, which runs through Calumet Township, Griffith, Highland and Munster. EPA coordinator Jacob Hassan says the April 11 spill was accidental and that the agency had identified its source.

The EPA initially hoped to wrap up its investigation in late April to determine whether citations were warranted, but furloughs caused by the federal budget cuts have delayed the report.

Hassan said issues involving disposal of the removed oil also have contributed to the delay.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management also is awaiting results on the glittery film found floating on Lake Michigan near the Porter Beach shoreline June 17. Swimmers discovered the substance in the lake when they emerged covered in the film.

Preliminary test results showed the substance to contain tricalcium orthophosphate.

The anti-caking agent is used as a food additive and in industrial products.

The source of the material is still being investigated.