The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority has agreed to bring six wastewater treatment facilities into compliance with the federal and Navajo laws in separate agreements with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Navajo Nation EPA.
The utility will invest $6 million to improve its facilities in Navajo Townsite, Ganado, Tuba City, Kayenta, Chinle and Pinon.
Violations of the treatment systems’ permits were reported by the utility and discovered during EPA and Navajo EPA inspections in 2014 and 2015. The orders require each facility to return to full compliance with the federal Clean Water Act and the Navajo Clean Water Act by early 2017.
“The EPA has worked with the Navajo Nation EPA for nearly 40 years to protect public health and the environment,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA acting regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “With these agreements, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority is committing to the protection of the Little Colorado and San Juan Rivers.”
“Navajo Nation EPA writes NPDES permits on behalf of EPA and has technical staff who possess federal Clean Water Act credentials to conduct compliance inspections on permitted facilities located on the Navajo Nation,” said Donald Benn, Navajo Nation EPA executive director. “Being locally situated, Navajo Nation EPA technical staff is on the forefront of detecting and addressing noncompliance. There is continuous coordination between EPA and Navajo Nation EPA.”
In total, the six plants collect and treat sewage from 27,315 residents throughout the Navajo Nation. The NTUA violated its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits by discharging pollutants above the allowed limits at the six facilities, by failing to submit complete and timely reports and by inadequately operating and maintaining existing treatment systems. Discharges from the six plants lead to the Little Colorado and San Juan Rivers.
Both agreements announced today bring the NTUA into compliance with NPDES permits at its six affected facilities. The Navajo Nation EPA agreement requires the NTUA to develop operation and maintenance manuals to prevent future violations, and to implement compliance plans to address the causes of the violations. The Navajo Nation EPA anticipates the NTUA will transfer the knowledge gained from meeting the terms of the agreements to all of its other water and wastewater facilities.
The current actions follow last year’s Navajo Nation EPA settlement with NTUA for the Window Rock treatment facility. The $25,000 fine imposed on the NTUA was the first time a tribally owned entity was penalized for violations of the Navajo Nation Clean Water Act. NTUA completed required upgrades to the Window Rock facility in 2015.
For more information on EPA's Clean Water Act NPDES program, please visit water.epa.gov/npdes. For more information on EPA's Region 9 Tribal Program, please visit www.epa.gov/region9/tribal. For more information on Navajo Nation EPA, please visit http://navajonationepa.org or call the Administration Office at (928) 871-7692.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency