EPA Causes Massive Waste Spill, Hurting Navajo Nation

 animas river

By Daniel Davis, Townhall.com

Durango, Colorado declared a state of emergency yesterday after the EPA accidentally contaminated a local river with 3 million gallons of waste. The Animas River has turned orange, and residents living along its banks have been warned to avoid it.

The accident began Wednesday last week when EPA workers accidentally leaked a local mine, releasing concentrated minerals into a stream. The mine had been abandoned for about 10 years, and ground water had accumulated inside it. EPA workers were there to clean up the mine. Now, the mine is leaking at 500 gallons per minute. It still hasn’t been contained, though workers are treating the nearby ponds where the minerals are leaking.

The EPA has tested the polluted water and reports arsenic levels at 300 times the normal level, and lead levels at 3,500 times the normal level. Both arsenic and lead pose significant dangers to humans when highly concentrated. The local sheriff has warned local residents to stay away from the river. The contaminants move along the river fairly quickly, they will not completely pass until the mine leak is plugged.

Many people who live along the Animas River depend on private wells for their water, but those are now threatened by the river’s pollution. The EPA is sending materials to these residents so that they can test their well water for cleanness.

The water pollution has flowed straight into the territory of the Navajo Nation, a semi-autonomous reservation Native American reservation spanning parts of northern Arizona, New Mexico, and southern Utah. The spill is already threatening the livelihoods of many Navajo residents, and the nation has declared its own state of emergency. It even looks to be preparing for a lawsuit against the EPA — the Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency Management has directed the tribe’s Attorney General to assemble a legal team to address the grievances of local residents:


Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates told the Daily Times that residents were concerned about drinking water safety, river access, water for livestock and crops, and the possibility of compensation for failed crops. With irrigation canals shut off, many farmers are concerned about their next step, Bates said.

“If these farmers don’t get water in the next week, they’ll lose their crops,” he said.


The plume of orange waste has already reached three states, and is expected to reach a fourth by Wednesday. As USA Today reports:


Mustard-colored water flowed this week into Cement Creek, a tributary that runs through Silverton [Colorado] and into the Animas River. In New Mexico, the plume of pollution entered Aztec early Saturday morning and Farmington later that morning. Officials said they expected it to reach the Utah border on Monday and Lake Powell, in Arizona, late Wednesday.


New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez toured the damage in Farmington, NM over the weekend. She was stunned by the disaster:


“The magnitude of it, you can’t even describe it,” she said, CNN affiliate KRQE reported. “It’s like when I flew over the fires, your mind sees something it’s not ready or adjusted to see.”


Equally stunning was the EPA’s slow response in notifying states of the disaster. New Mexico officials got their first word of the disaster from Native American officials. By the time they heard from EPA officials, it was 24 hours after the spill had begun. Gov. Martinez commented:


“It’s completely irresponsible for the EPA not to have informed New Mexico immediately.”

Zero waste policy

By Monica Brown, Tulalip News

Most items can be recycled today and Tulalip’s Solid Waste and Recycling Departments are in the early stages of a long term goal aimed at a zero waste policy. Within the Tulalip Tribes there are 41 buildings, outside of the administration building, that recycle.

Samuel Davis, the coordinator of Tulalip’s Solid Waste and Recycling Department explains that, “It is important to change the mindset of people and the role they can play when it comes to recycling. I really want us all to be stewards of our environment and to look out for the future of our land and our children.”

Currently, the waste disposal budget for Tulalip is $250,000.00 per year and includes all Tulalip Tribal Government entities, along with tribal members that dump at Shelco. “That number is too high so we are trying to find ways, through recycling and other avenues, to lower the amount of waste we send to our land-fills,” Davis states.

While there are multiple locations throughout the admin building to toss recyclables, Davis said they were noticing the bins were not being used as much as they should have been and that a majority of the garbage being hauled out was filled with recyclable items. So, they decided to put a recycling bin at every desk to make it that much simpler for everyone to recycle.

“One of our next steps is to start an educational program on what can be recycled and just how important it is to recycle,” said Davis. Since most items can be recycled, the other issue is the item should be clean when it is tossed into the recycling. The cleaner the container, the more it is worth in the recyclables market. Most recycling facilities sort items by type (paper, plastic, glass, metal) and then by quality. When an item is of poor quality the facility must do more work to get the item in usable shape.

Providing a clean or near clean recyclable item can save money for the city and taxpayers. But, how clean is clean? The container does not need to be squeaky clean, just without food is acceptable. An example would be a finished yogurt cup; the yogurt has been all scooped out and can be tossed in the bin but if you were to lightly rinse out the container that will make it better quality.

The white paper cups provided at the admin building and at nearly every coffee stand are not recyclable. This information had me personally reconsidering what I use to eat my morning oatmeal. The cups have an inner plastic coating that keeps the paper from absorbing liquids but makes the cup very difficult to recycle.  Although the white cups are not recyclable the Styrofoam provided at the admin is. Davis explains, “Styrene foam (Styrofoam) is ground up, compressed and densified into blocks, which are then manufactured into plastic products such as picture frames, TV & computer cases, office equipment and other plastic products. There are only a few companies in the area that do recycle Styrofoam and we are in the process of working with them to get bins for that purpose.”

At the admin, if everyone brought in their own reusable containers, coffee cups and water bottles this would reduce the amount of waste hauled out, which is not only good for the Tribe’s budget but also the environment. Check the Waste Management website at www.wmnorthwest.com for more detailed information about recycling do’s and don’ts.

While most items can be recycled here is a list of items that can’t be recycled: soiled paper, soiled cardboard, wrapping paper, laminated paper, paper covered in foil, frozen-food boxes, blueprints, thermal fax paper, pet food bags and dryer sheets.









10 Ways Excrement Can Save the World

 Dung beetles, which navigate their poop balls via starlight, must be onto something.
Dung beetles, which navigate their poop balls via starlight, must be onto something.

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

Euphemistically known as waste-to-energy, the possibilities afforded by excrement are, well, excremental. David Waltner-Toews, a veterinarian, epidemiologist, scientist and author, wrote The Origin of Feces: What Excrement Tells Us About Evolution, Ecology, and a Sustainable Society, as well as other books about the intersection of humans and nature and its relationship to development. He recently outlined 10 ways that the use of such waste could do everything from promoting energy self-sufficiency to improving drinking water.

These concepts are not new in Indian country. Witness the technical assistance grant earlier this year bestowed by the U.S. Department of Energy on the Ho-Chunk Nation of Black River Falls, Wisconsin, to develop a one- to two-megawatt biomass waste-to-energy plant. “The plant could potentially use municipal solid waste, agriculture waste or other biomass resources to offset tribal facility energy costs,” the DOE said in a press release in May. (Related: Ten Tribes Receive Department of Energy Clean-Energy Technical Assistance)

Those dung beetles must be onto something. (Related: Insect Astronomers: Milky Way Guides Dung Beetles to Roll Poop Balls in Straight Line)

1. Energy self-sufficiency could be within our grasp if we would just compost the waste.

“If half the livestock manure in the world were used to produce energy, it could replace about 10 percent of current fossil fuels and save countries billions of dollars,” Waltner-Toews writes. This could be derived from a process that is sort of composting on steroids, which is to say, “produced from manure and other organic materials through a process of decomposition and bacterial fermentation.” The leftover compounds could also be used to make fertilizer.

2. Keep those trees standing.

People could burn manure instead of wood, the author says, which would prevent deforestation.

3. Pull Mother Earth back from her tipping point.

Create methane using anaerobic biodigesters, which would also be used for list item number one, to reign in the amount of the noxious gas that makes it into our atmosphere. “Manure-based anaerobic biodigesters create, contain and use methane as fuel to cook, heat homes and run vehicles.” Bonus: Getting rid of a greenhouse gas that’s 23 times worse than carbon dioxide in terms of the impact on global warming.

4. Better food (no, you don’t have to eat sh*t).

Manure + farming = food for animals. Fish and cattle are little alchemy machines, transforming chicken manure into protein, Waltner-Toews points out.

5. Better drinking water.

The more manure that gets processed out of the methane-polluting mix, the fewer water supplies will be contaminated.

6. A healthier public.

All those doggie fecal flakes lying around get into waterways and food supplies, Waltner-Toews notes. They spread disease and parasites and increase child mortality. “By channeling the poop through digesters and/or composters, we kill most of the pathogenic bacteria and parasites.”

7. Poop knowledge is power.

Excrement conveys information to those willing to translate. This can help gauge the health and well-being of wildlife, especially endangered species, and teach us a lot about their habits and lives.

8. Togetherness.

No, this does not entail a group bathroom hangout. But researching ways to use manure as energy could unite farmers, scientists and other industries in partnership.

9. Poop: the great equalizer

Although there are some who would appear to be more full of sh•t than others, Waltner-Toews points out that humans produce about 120 pounds of excrement, be they bombastic dictators or just plain old us. “Everybody produces more or less the same amount of excrement, regardless of religion, ideology, sex, sexual orientation or economic status,” Waltner-Toews writes. “If this were acknowledged, quantified and used to produce energy and fertilizer, we could publicly celebrate each person’s contribution to the global economy.”

10. Jumpstart the dialogue.

Now that we understand that all that foul-smelling stuff is actually the stuff of life, we can find ways to integrate excrement production into public life via sustainable urban and rural planning—“and, yes, save the earth for another generation to explore, delight in, and wonder about.”

Read the full David Waltner-Toews on 10 Ways Poop Can Save the World at Bookish.com, a website created by publishers and industry leaders for book lovers. And see the author’s website here. He has written numerous books, all equally inspiring.


Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/07/23/poop-power-10-ways-excrement-can-save-world-150525

Victory! Oneida Nation and Green Bay ban the burning of waste

How grassroots organizing is stopping waste incinerators in Wisconsin

protester-with-gas-maskKristen A. Johnson and Ananda Lee Tan, GAIA

Last month, members of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin hammered the final nail in the coffin for waste incinerator proposals on the Oneida lands, including parts of Brown and Outagamie Counties.

On May 5, more than 1800 Oneida General Tribal Council members overwhelmingly voted to reject the Oneida Seven Generations Corporation’s bid to build a pyrolysis gasification incinerator. Despite millions of dollars of subsidies offered by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Green Bay City Council and now the Oneida Nation have sent a clear message to all extreme energy and waste corporations that burners are not welcome in their backyards, or those of their neighbors.

This facility fight has been at the center of public debate for more than two years, and numerous environmental groups, health experts and advocates from around the state and across the U.S. provided support for this protracted community battle. However, the most inspiring, and instructive stories are those of grassroots, community organizing that led these victories. The following are reflections from parallel organizing efforts in the communities of Oneida and Green Bay.

Incinerator Free Brown County: Persistent and Adaptive Organizing

Incinerator Free Brown County came together in the fall of 2010, when an article appeared in the Green Bay newspaper announcing that a waste-to-energy plant would be built by the Oneida Seven Generations Corporation (OSGC). The proposed site was near a residential area in the Village of Hobart. Alarmed by the potential health, economic, and environmental hazards posed by this plant, residents banded together, posting flyers door-to-door, in an effort to galvanize awareness and concern. They formed the Biomass Opposition Committee (BOC), and after the site was relocated to the city of Green Bay, they changed their name to Incinerator Free Brown County (IFBC) to promote a countywide campaign.

Everyone within a 2-mile radius of the incinerator site was made aware of the proposal and community members joined meetings to discuss organizing plans. At each meeting core members volunteered to raise funds to cover organizing expenses. These funds were used to share information about waste incineration through local signature petitions, fact sheets and media.

IFBC reached out to groups such as GAIAIndigenous Environmental NetworkGreenaction for Health and Environmental JusticeWaukesha Environmental Action League, Clean Water Action, and the Wisconsin Sierra Club for support. A number of health professionals also responded, experts who testify in support of communities opposing polluting industries. In March 2013, Dr. Paul Connett and Bradley Angel of Greenaction gave public presentations on the danger of incinerators and the benefits of zero waste. DVD recordings of their presentations were used to deepen community awareness.

Opposition to the incinerator grew in the spring of 2011 when Clean Water Action financed and—with community input—designed 4 billboards and numerous yard signs that broadcast their message to the general public, attracting the attention of the Mayor, local media, and the OSGC.

However, the fight was not without its challenges. For months, the Mayor, City Council and elected officials of the Oneida Nation avoided meeting with organizers.

IFBC kept detailed records of all documents produced by the OSGC and used these to strategically expose contradictions in the company’s technology claims. Organizers met with local officials, educating Green Bay’s elected leaders on the environmental, health, and economic impacts of the incinerator. Local residents were encouraged to contact officials to ensure that public opposition remained on the agenda.

Finally, in October 2012, after a legal challenge highlighting misleading claims by the incinerator company, IFBC and allies convinced the Green Bay Council to revoke the incinerator’s conditional use permit.  After the Mayor decided not to veto the council’s vote, the City Attorney officiated revoking of the permit.

Organizers with IFBC have shared their insights in their Incinerator Resistance Guide—so that other grassroots groups can learn from their lessons, mistakes, and successes as well as ways to maintain good humor during such protracted battles, where persistence and perseverance win.


Organizing the Oneida Nation with Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Leah Sue Dodge is a member of the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, one of six Indigenous Nations that make up the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. Leah first learned of the waste burner from an opinion piece in the Oneida Tribal newspaper. Her community was already wary of the toxic threats posed by this facility, as well as the prospect of thousands of diesel trucks transporting garbage through the community on route to the incinerator.

With the emerging debate in neighboring Green Bay, and news that the incinerator company had made claims there would be no harmful emissions, not even smokestacks, associated with this untested waste gasification technology, members of Leah’s community grew increasingly concerned.

After the Green Bay City Council revoked the incinerator permit, OSGC followed with legal action. On January 9th, 2013 a Brown County circuit court judge decided to uphold the Green Bay decision, finding that the company had indeed misrepresented the facts: “(OSGC) indicated that there are no smoke stacks, no oxygen, and no ash. I am satisfied that is a misstatement.”

The decision prompted OSGC to look at siting a smaller “plastics-to-fuel” incinerator on tribal lands—as a stepping-stone towards a “full size” facility. Learning this news Leah decided to get more involved. As an Oneida member, Leah felt a responsibility to warn her community about Oneida money being invested in this project, and that her Tribe’s reputation was at stake, despite personal concerns about how her actions could affect her Tribal employment due to the powerful and moneyed interests involved. However, in her words, “The risk of my home being poisoned was greater than these fears.”

To start her inquiry, Leah decided to meet with key Oneida decision-makers: Oneida Business Committee Chair Ed Delgado and Yvonne Metivier, Oneida Elder Advisor to the Chairperson. Metivier suggested Leah draft a petition to demonstrate broad community opposition, and bring the matter before the General Tribal Council for a vote. She advised Dodge to keep the petition focused, and achievable in scope: a) aimed at stopping the incinerator from being approved for all Oneida lands, and, b) worded in a manner that did not require extensive legislative or financial analysis.

Leah promptly went to work, drafting and seeking signatures for the petition, which read: The General Tribal Council directs the Oneida Business Committee to stop Oneida Seven Generations Corporation (OSGC) from building any “gasification” or “waste-to-energy” or “plastics recycling” plant at N7239 Water Circle Place, Oneida, WI or any other location on the Oneida Reservation.

Over the next 10 days, Leah gathered names on the petition, ensuring they were all Oneida members of voting age. Signatures of Oneida members of all ages, as well as members of other tribes were also presented to the Oneida Land Commission in opposition to a land-use permit for the facility. Despite the proposed site being in ecologically sensitive wetlands, and less than a mile from the Turtle Elementary School, the high school and Oneida legislative offices, the Commission decided in favor of the facility.

At this stage, Leah decided to seek broader community engagement. Leading into the May 2013 general assembly of the Oneida Tribal Council, Leah purchased ads in the Tribal newspaper, distributed information for concerned Oneidas to share via social networks. Leah worked with others to develop a community action for two days at an intersection near the incinerator site. Deliberately choosing not to label the action a “protest”, they called it a Fun Action of Conscience & Teaching (FACT). “This was about supporting what we are for, rather than focusing solely on what we are against.”


Oneida artist Scott Hill recommended using visuals emphasizing traditional Oneida beliefs about the teaching spirits of animals, including the guiding stories of the clan animals, Turtle, Bear and Wolf:

  • The Turtle symbolizes Mother Earth, turtle island – the caretakers of the land
  • The Bear is a symbol of the Earth’s natural medicines and plants, healers
  • The Wolf clans are the peacekeepers, pathfinders – guarding and guiding communities against harm. I am of the wolf clan….

In sharing the principles embedded in these stories with community members, families and friends driving and walking by; stopping, listening, and engaging in discussion—dozens of new community members resolved to oppose the toxic threat to their lands, their families and their community.

Visually communicating these stories was a key element of the FACT action, with artistry by Hill helping illustrate the philosophy of caring for earth’s precious resources—because the Great Law of Peace teaches that in all actions we must consider how we affect the next seven generations. Leah noted this philosophy was clearly at odds with the business model of any company planning to waste and burn earth’s resources, despite their attempts at green branding.

Hill also painted posters combining tribal icons with gas masks because, “everybody understands poison”. Scott’s grandson, Talyn Metoxen, enjoyed taking part as well, wearing a gas mask and holding his grandfather’s artwork.

The FACT action coupled with strong presentations to the Oneida General Tribal Council served to unite the Oneida community against the burners, going to show how community-led organizing can be irresistible when coupled with place-based culture and ecosystems knowledge.

Leah Sue Dodge acknowledges the support received from the Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin, IFBC and their neighbors of the Mather Heights Neighborhood Association, who all valiantly and victoriously fought the incinerator proposal outside the Oneida Reservation. She hopes that, moving forward, Tribal leadership will work with these organizations to challenge environmental and health threats for the benefit of everyone.