Jul 16, 2015

U.S., Navajo Nation EPAs Enter Agreements with Navajo Tribal Utility Authority

The agreements will help bring a Navajo wastewater treatment facility into compliance with clean water acts

Navajo Nation EPA Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Window Rock Clean Water Act

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Navajo Nation EPA (NNEPA) announced a pair of settlements with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) to bring its wastewater treatment facility in Window Rock into compliance both with the federal Clean Water Act and the Navajo Nation Clean Water Act.

EPA's agreement backs up a recent NNEPA settlement that required the NTUA to pay a $25,000 penalty. This is the first time that a tribally owned entity has paid a penalty for violations of the Navajo Nation Clean Water Act. The NTUA has committed to bring the Window Rock facility into full compliance by Dec. 31, 2015, or face additional penalties. NTUA has also agreed to build new infrastructure for the treatment plant at the site.

“For over 35 years we have partnered with the Navajo Nation to protect public health and the environment,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA applauds the Navajo Nation EPA for its leadership in setting this precedent that protects the Nation’s precious water resources.”

“The Navajo Nation Clean Water Act was created to protect the public health and the environment. These laws must be complied with by everyone within the Navajo Nation,” said Dr. Donald Benn, executive director of NNEPA. “The Window Rock Facility was out of compliance for a long time, prompting NNEPA’s Water Quality program to initiate an enforcement action. The parties have reached an agreement and Navajo EPA appreciates the cooperation by NTUA to implement a long term goal for compliance.”

An EPA inspection revealed that since at least 2011 NTUA had been discharging pollutants above its permit limits to Black Creek, a tributary of the Puerco River that feeds into the Little Colorado River. Other violations of the NTUA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit included its failure to submit complete and timely reports while inadequately operating and maintaining its existing treatment system. The plant collects and treats sanitary sewage from a population of about 13,300 in Apache County, Ariz., within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation.

The settlements require the NTUA to conduct sampling, submit quarterly reports, train and certify the plant’s operators, and hold regular compliance meetings with senior officials of EPA and NNEPA. The NTUA will also submit a plan for EPA and NNEPA’s approval for the construction of an entirely new treatment plant including a detailed schedule for commissioning and bringing the new facility 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.

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