Navajo Enforce Their Own Clean Water Act

(CN) – The Navajo Nation agreed to bring its wastewater treatment plant in Window Rock, Ariz. into compliance with the federal and the Navajo Nation Clean Water Acts.
     The Window Rock facility treats sanitary sewage from about 13,300 people in Apache County in the Navajo Nation.
     The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that since at least 2011, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority had been discharging pollutants above its permits into Black Creek, a tributary of the Puerco River that feeds into the Little Colorado River.
     The EPA and the Navajo Nation EPA on Tuesday announced two settlements requiring the utility to pay a $25,000 penalty – the first time a tribally owned entity has paid a penalty for violating the Navajo Nation Clean Water Act.
     The authority agreed to bring the Window Rock facility into compliance by the end of the year or face additional penalties. It will also build new infrastructure at the site.
     Jared Blumenfeld, EPA regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, applauded the Navajo Nation EPA “for its leadership in setting this precedent that protects the Nation’s precious water resources.”
     Donald Benn, executive director of the Navajo Nation EPA, said the Window Rock facility was out of compliance for a long time, prompting the enforcement action.
     The Navajo EPA appreciates the cooperation by the utility authority “to implement a long-term goal for compliance,” Benn said.
     In addition to discharging pollutants above its permits, the facility failed to submit complete and timely reports while inadequately operating and maintaining its treatment system.
     The settlements require the authority to conduct sampling, submit quarterly reports, train and certify plant operators, and hold regular compliance meetings with senior officials of the EPA and Navajo Nation EPA.
     The utility authority will also submit a plan for the agencies’ approval for construction of a new treatment plant, including a detailed schedule for commissioning and bringing it on line.
     Approximately $10 million in funding for the new facility was provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service Water and Waste Disposal Loans and Grants Program.
     Window Rock is the administrative capital of the 27,425-square-mile Navajo reservation. With more than 300,000 members, the Navajo are the biggest tribe, by area and by population, in the United States. The Diné, as they call themselves in their Athapaskan tongue, are almost certainly the leading Native American nation in preserving their language.

%d bloggers like this: