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Settlement with the Department of the Interior (DOI) to Resolve Violations at Schools in Indian Country

(Washington, DC - August 22, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) have reached an agreement to address alleged violations at schools and public water systems (PWSs) owned, operated, or otherwise the legal responsibility of DOI, Indian Affairs (IA). IA is comprised of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).

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This action stems from EPA’s FY 2008-2010 National Indian Country Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Priority, under which EPA conducted inspections at BIE schools and reviewed federal data for BIA PWSs serving BIE schools. The inspections and data review that serve as the basis for this enforcement action were conducted from fiscal year 2005 through June 2008.

The settlement approach includes a Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) and Federal Facility Compliance Agreement (FFCA) with settlement terms resolving all alleged violations.

The CAFO was approved by the EPA Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) on August 18, 2011. EPA finalized the FFCA also on August 18, 2011.

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Violations Addressed

The inspections identified several hundred alleged violations at approximately 72 schools under several environmental statutes, including the:

  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
  • Clean Air Act (CAA)
  • Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA)
  • Clean Water Act (CWA)
  • Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)
  • Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
  • Toxic Substances Control Act's (TSCA) PCBs

The PWS data review identified alleged violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) at 27 BIA PWSs that serve BIE schools. EPA did not identify any violations that appeared to pose an imminent and substantial endangerment, or threat of such endangerment, to human health or the environment.

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Compliance Provisions

All violations must be corrected within 90 days of approval of the CAFO by the U.S. EPA's Environmental Appeals Board (EAB), unless EPA approves a longer period. According to DOI many of the violations have already been corrected. Return to compliance must be certified by a senior level DOI official.

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Third Party Audits

Independent, third-party environmental compliance audits will be conducted on a rolling three-year cycle at all BIE schools and BIA water systems which serve these schools. Violations uncovered during audits must be corrected within 90 days unless EPA approves a longer time frame. The first four years of audits will be conducted under EPA oversight.

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Environmental Management System (EMS)

A compliance focused, International Organization of Standardization (ISO) 14001 equivalent EMS will be implemented at BIE schools and BIA public water systems that serve schools by February 2013. (An EMS is a set of processes and practices that enable an organization to reduce its environmental impacts and increase its operating efficiency.) A third party auditor will evaluate the EMS to ensure it complies with substantive requirements of ISO 14001.

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Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP)

A solar energy power system will be installed to serve a BIE school on the Havasupai Reservation in Arizona and will provide a more stable energy source for the school and community.

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Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) Expenditures

DOI has four years to expend $234,844 on AHERA compliance at IA schools.

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Safe Drinking Water

The CAFO requires DOI to provide alternate drinking water for users of BIA Keams Canyon Water System until it fully complies with a separate EPA Region 9 Administrative Order, which will govern the longer-term compliance actions required at the facility. (See in ECHO, BIA Kearns Caynon Public Water Systsem Report and Enforcement Case Report.)

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Stipulated Penalties

Penalties may be assessed if DOI fails to comply with the terms of the settlement, including failure to correct violations found during the audits. In addition, substantial penalties may be assessed if senior level DOI official fails to certify compliance.

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For more information, contact:

Marie Muller, Attorney Advisor
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington DC 20460
(202) 564-0217

Gracie Pendleton, Attorney Advisor
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington DC 20460
(202) 564-2588