These Are The 10 Most Polluted Cities In Indiana

We looked at EPA data to determine which cities in Indiana are the most polluted.

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This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out.

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There’s been a lot of talk about the environment over the last decade, as cities are scrambling to clean up their act, and citizens are more vocal than ever about being healthier. Sure, we can eat better, quit smoking and cut fat out of our diets.

But, in the big picture, to live a healthy lifestyle, it’s not always as simple as changing personal choices on the minute level. The place you live might be dirtier than you can imagine. And for the Indiana cities below, that’s certainly the case.

Which cities in Indiana are the outright dirtiest? Using data, we’re about to find out.

Any by the way, did you know that an independent group called Environment America said Indiana has the worst water pollution in the nation – and that 18 million pounds of toxic chemicals were dumped into Indiana waterways in 2012?

We looked at the biggest cities in Indiana to determine which ones have to clean up their act. Here are the Dirtiest Cities In Indiana:

  1. Beech Grove
  2. Indianapolis
  3. Lawrence
  4. Cumberland
  5. New Haven
  6. Fort Wayne
  7. East Chicago
  8. Gary
  9. Lake Stanton
  10. Hammond

And to be clear, we didn’t form this list based on our own biases — we relied on the cold hard data. For more on how we ran the numbers, keep on reading. Then we’ll take a closer look at each of our top 10 dirtiest cities.


How do you determine how dirty a city is?

In order to rank the dirtiest cities in Indiana, we had to determine what criteria makes a city filthier than others. It’s not a stretch to assume that a clean city has good air quality, clean drinking water, uncontaminated soil, and germ free public schools.

In regards to public schools, it’s a common understanding that school attendance is related to illness, and school cleanliness is (or lack thereof) is a big factor in kids missing school.

So we scraped the internet for those criteria, and it spit out the answer. Like magic.

How we crunched the numbers

Using the latest numbers from the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Indiana’s Department of Education, we generated a ranking of each city based on the following criteria:

  • Air Quality
  • Water quality
  • Superfund number (ground contamination)
  • Public school attendance numbers

Note: Due to the fact that several cities tied because they are close enough that they either share the same water or have the same air/superfund scores, we used public school attendance as a way to break the tie.


1. Beech Grove

Dirty Grade: F

Beech Grove, IN

Population: 13,949
Air quality: C
Water quality: F
Soil contamination: F

Beech Grove is by far the dirtiest city in the state of Indiana. According to the EPA, Beech Grove, along with a number of cities near Indianapolis, have a score of 1 when it comes to water quality. Keep in mind that 100 is best.

So, a number of cities in the Indianapolis area have the worst water score you can have.

Beech Grove schools also have one of the lowest school attendance rates we measured. That means lots of sick kids in the public schools.

2. Indianapolis

Dirty Grade: D-

IPL Harding Street Station, Indianapolis, IN

Population: 831,230
Air quality: C
Water quality: F
Soil contamination: F

The Environmental Working Group ranked Indianapolis (and the cities listed above, which share the groundwater with Indianapolis) 90th out of 100 when it comes to water quality.

That test looked at the number of chemicals that exceeded state health guidelines.

In terms of the ground contamination sites in the greater Indianapolis area, the EPA has 8 sites listed which have had issues in the past. You can see them here.

3. Cumberland

Dirty Grade: D-

Cumberland, IN

Population: 5,205
Air quality: C
Water quality: F
Soil contamination: F

This Indianapolis suburb has essentially the same numbers as Beech Grove. The only real difference is that the soil is a tiny bit better and the school attendance rates area tick higher than in Beech Grove.

Our argument is that dirty schools means sick kids, and sick kids miss school.

4. Lawrence

Dirty Grade: D-

Lawrence, IN

Population: 45,779
Air quality: C
Water quality: F
Soil contamination: F

Lawrence is a city on the northern fringes of the greater Indianapolis area. It, too, has a ‘1’ when it comes to water quality, below average air quality and a 42 out of 100 when it comes to soil contamination.

Superfund numbers are measured in terms of hazardous substances in the soil, including pollutants and contaminates.

5. New Haven

Dirty Grade: D+

New Haven, IN

Population: 14,624
Air quality: B
Water quality: F
Soil contamination: D

The Fort Wayne area is the next dirtiest region in the state of Indiana. New Haven is a city that shares the groundwater with Fort Wayne, and since the kids in New Haven attend Fort Wayne schools, it wasn’t possible to break the tie.

In any event, the air quality in the Fort Wayne area is much better than in Indianapolis, as are the water quality and soil levels. However, the water quality is still rated a 23 of 100, meaning is deserves an F grade.

6. Fort Wayne

Dirty Grade: D+

Ward Corporation Foundry, Fort Wayne, IN

Population: 253,617
Air quality: B
Water quality: F
Soil contamination: D

The EPA assigns Fort Wayne a score of 61 out of 100 on its Superfund ranking. The main reason is the Fort Wayne Reduction Superfund Site.

Fort Wayne Reduction is a 35-acre site located along the south bank of the Maumee River and situated in a 100-year old flood plain of the river. The site operated as a residential and industrial landfill and accepted hazardous wastes from 1966 to 1974.

7. East Chicago

Dirty Grade: D+

East Chicago, IN

Population: 29,789
Air quality: D+
Water quality: F
Soil contamination: F

The entire area on the southern shore of Lake Michigan in the greater Gary area is a really dirty place. That includes East Chicago, Gary, Lake Station and Hammond.

East Chicago’s school attendance rate is the lowest of those 4, and the lowest of any of the schools we measured. Public school kids attended class at a 94.5% clip in the last year available.

8. Gary

Dirty Grade: D+

U.S. Steel Gary Works, Gary, IN

Population: 81,153
Air quality: D+
Water quality: F
Soil contamination: F

The air quality in the Gary area is the worst of any city we measured, by far. The EPA assigned the greater Gary region a score of 69.7 for its air. The next worst air quality measured is the Indianapolis area.

Gary is still in the process of determining a plan to prevent the discharge of untreated sewage as well, and the city of Gary has been under federal scrutiny for polluting Lake Michigan.

9. Lake Station

Dirty Grade: D

Lake Station, IN

Population: 12,596
Air quality: D+
Water quality: F
Soil contamination: F

The toxic tour of northwest Indiana continues with Lake Station, which ranked a tick lower than Gary due to the public school attendance records here.

The soil in the greater Gary area, including Lake Station, Hammond, Hobart, Lowell, Cedar Lake, Dyer, Griffith, Munster, Crown Point and Merrillville, has been assigned a score of 10 (100 is best). That’s by far the highest number of contamination in the state of Indiana.

10. Hammond

Dirty Grade: D

Hammond, IN

Population: 80,658
Air quality: D+
Water quality: F
Soil contamination: F

The water in Hammond, and surrounding areas, was given a score of 30 (100 is best). That’s actually not the worst. There are many communities in Indiana that have far worse water ratings. In fact, as a state, Indiana has been called the worst state in the nation for water pollution.

There You Have It

If you’re looking at which of Indiana’s largest cities have the worst air, water and soil contamination, this is a fair list.

Disclaimer: This article is an opinion based on data. It should not be taken as fact.

Desktop users, here’s a chart of all of Indiana’s cities, ranked from dirtiest to cleanest.

Mobile and desktop users: Click here to see the complete data chart, which has the air, water and superfund numbers for all of Indiana’s cities. Remember, 100 is best.

City Population Rank
Beech_Grove 13949 1
Cumberland 5205 2
Lawrence 45779 3
Indianapolis 831230 4
New_Haven 14624 5
Fort_Wayne 253617 6
East_Chicago 29789 7
Gary 81153 8
Lake_Station 12596 9
Hammond 80658 10
Hobart 28933 11
Lowell 9225 12
Cedar_Lake 11484 13
Dyer 16283 14
Griffith 16875 15
Munster 23460 16
Crown_Point 27477 17
Merrillville 35201 18
Mount_Vernon 6677 19
Zionsville 23134 20
Yorktown 9347 21
Muncie 70033 22
Westfield 30081 23
Westville 5873 24
La_Porte 22077 25
Michigan_City 31442 26
Vincennes 18374 27
Greenfield 20545 27
Alexandria 5167 29
Anderson 56097 30
Elwood 8677 31
Noblesville 52987 32
Fishers 76835 33
Carmel 80060 34
Evansville 119226 35
Frankfort 16433 36
Ellettsville 6367 37
Notre_Dame 7099 38
Granger 29302 39
Mishawaka 48107 40
Bloomington 80440 41
Terre_Haute 60850 42
Mooresville 9383 43
Chesterton 13571 44
Valparaiso 31347 45
Marion 30088 46
Gas_City 5918 47
Dunlap 6414 48
Nappanee 6509 49
Goshen 31569 50
Elkhart 51293 51
West_Lafayette 30047 52
Lafayette 67302 53
Boonville 6267 54
Columbus 44306 55
Brownsburg 21749 55
Madison 12048 57
Crawfordsville 15958 58
Martinsville 11890 59
Huntington 17385 60
Kokomo 54402 61
Bargersville 5237 62
New_Whiteland 5498 63
Franklin 23857 64
Greenwood 50457 64
Bluffton 9565 66
Avon 12542 67
New_Albany 36450 68
Danville 8981 69
Warsaw 13620 70
Garrett 5987 71
Washington 11552 72
Auburn 12760 73
Decatur 10062 74
Hartford_City 6207 75
Columbia_City 8503 76
Tipton 5094 77
Monticello 5384 78
Lawrenceburg 5023 79
Hidden_Valley 5174 80
Bright 5517 81
Wabash 10644 82
Batesville 6727 83
Charlestown 7607 84
Angola 8552 85
Clarksville 22122 86
Jeffersonville 44683 86
North_Manchester 6017 88
Greencastle 10343 89
Logansport 17855 90
New_Castle 18066 91
Greensburg 11527 92
Linton 5408 93
Kendallville 9943 94
Huntingburg 5739 95
Jasper 14982 96
Bedford 13436 97
Brazil 7786 98
North_Vernon 6616 99
Tell_City 7287 100
Connersville 13479 101