POCATELLO, Idaho (CN) – The Shoshone-Bannock tribes say the Bureau of Land Management has struck a land-swap deal with owners of a phosphate processing plant that will poison tribal homelands with arsenic, cadmium, selenium and other toxins.
The BLM agreed to exchange 718.56 acres of public land next to the Simplot Pocatello Don Plant in northern Idaho for 666.2 acres of private land.
The plant, classified as a Superfund site in 1990, sits next to the Fort Hall Reservation, ceded by the tribes in 1898. If the deal is solidified, the tribes will lose access to land within their original reservation boundaries.
Simplot wants to use the land for more stacks of phosphogypsum. But the Shoshones say the piles of the chemicals already there caused the massive groundwater contamination that the Environmental Protection Agency cited in naming the place a Superfund site.
“All 2,530 acres of land surrounding the phosphate facilities were found to have contamination of concern,” according to the complaint. “Public wells within 3 miles of the area provide drinking water to an estimated 55,000 people and are used to irrigate over 2,000 acres of crops.”
The tribes say the Bureau of Land Management failed to thoroughly analyze the significant human and environmental impacts the new stacks will create as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
The tribes say the BLM’s environmental assessment of the new chemical dumps is “woefully inadequate” and “bases its public interest determination almost exclusively on the economic interest” of Simplot and non-Indian communities. The tribes charge the BLM and the Department of the Interior with violations of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and National Environmental Policy Act. They ask for immediate and permanent injunctions preventing the land exchange. They are represented by Paul EchoHawk of Pocatello.