The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) is unacceptable to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Fort Hall, Idaho. EPA paves the way for FMC Corp. to sweep their 50-year legacy of waste under the rug. The public should be outraged that this is the best the EPA can do after 20 plus years. My people remain enraged over this decision—a decision I question. Is this the best EPA can do to order FMC to clean up their mess? It will leave thousands of tons of ignitable and reactive waste within our homeland and generate toxic phosphine and other gases indefinitely. For decades we have strongly advocated for removal and/or treatment of this dangerous and deadly waste. Unless the site is cleaned up, not covered up, future commercial use of the site is not realistic. The EPA is misleading the public by stating the remedy is protective of human health and the environment. FMC plans to place a soil cap over the hazardous materials and monitor the top of the soil. FMC refuses to monitor deep within the soils to determine how far phosphine gas is migrating.
It’s time FMC starts treating the groundwater. The fact is, only a fraction of the contamination will be treated. Most contamination will enter the Portneuf River and be diluted. Only a fraction of the arsenic is expected to be treated after 100 years! Did you know 22 rail cars full of toxic material are covered up in the slag pile? Also, the interim record of decision allows FMC to throw 12 inches of dirt over the top of the slag pile and call it clean. Why? Because EPA thinks it may be too costly to require FMC to dig it out. FMC is allowed to dig pits 100 feet deep to mine ore when they can make money but when it comes to cleaning up, it’s too costly to dig that deep. There is no mention of the independent study EPA headquarters has told the region to work on. We hope this study will tell the true story—that portion of the FMC site may be treated and cleaned up. I speak for my people and we will continue to fight toward a cleanup at FMC. If EPA develops a final rather than interim decision, tribal cleanup standards and regulations could be applied (such as TERO and TOSHA) to properly treat the site. We want to ensure that our tribal land is cleaned up to be reused for future generations. We won’t allow corporations to continue to sweep their mess under a rug and call it good. Shame on you FMC! You made billions of dollars at this site and now refuse to clean up your mess. Pocatello, Chubbuck, Bannock and Power County citizens, this is your tax dollars at work. Tell EPA you expect this company to treat this dangerous waste!
Nathan Small is the Fort Hall Business Chairman. This column was submitted on behalf of the Fort Hall Business Council.