10/11/2011 Hopi challenges BIA over water contamination By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent: KYKOTSMOVI – The Hopi Tribe has taken legal action against the Bureau of Indian Affairs over its operation of the Tuba City Open Dump and is seeking immediate restoration of contaminated groundwater that is migrating toward the Upper Moenkopi supply wells. Hopi Tribal Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa said the tribe has spent more than 12 years trying to get the BIA to adequately address the issue of groundwater contamination stemming from the open dump since it was shut down in 1997. “Simply put, the BIA has failed to comply with the requirements that are in place to protect the Hopi Tribe’s drinking water,” he stated Monday in a press release.
The Tuba City Open Dump has contaminated groundwater that the Hopi Villages of Upper Moenkopi and Lower Moencopi rely on as their only source of drinking water, according to Louella Nahsonhoya, public information officer for the Hopi Tribe.
“Since the mid-1990s, the Hopi Tribe has been working under the guidance of the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a comprehensive program for the maintenance and protection of the Tribe’s drinking water sources on the reservation,” Shingoitewa said. “We have a series of ordinances in place which conform to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.”
The Hopi claim the BIA did little, if anything, to manage what was being disposed at the dump during its years of operation and exacerbated the contamination by digging waste trenches that brought the waste material into close contact with the water table, approximately 15 feet below surface, according to Nahsonhoya.
The BIA has failed to take any action to prevent the further migration of the contamination that is now within the cone of influence of the Moenkopi supply wells, she said.
According to U.S. EPA, the dump – located on 28 acres of Hopi land and two acres of the Navajo Nation – received waste from 1940 to 1997. EPA signed an enforcement agreement with BIA in 2010, requiring investigation and evaluation of feasible cleanup options. BIA is the lead federal agency responsible for closing the site.
A notice of endangerment and intent to sue filed by Hopi in May 2009 stated that the unlined dump lies directly on top of the Navajo Aquifer and that supply wells located about 4,000 feet west of the dump provide water for the public water supply system that serves the Upper Village of Moenkopi. The Lower Village obtains water from two springs approximately 7,000 feet southwest of the dump.
At the time of the 2009 filing, the Hopi Tribe’s consultant had identified a contaminant plume that included uranium and elevated levels of inorganic contaminants which had migrated more than 4,000 feet downgradient from the dump. Groundwater exceeding the maximum contaminant level for uranium was within 2,500 feet of the village spring and supply wells, posing an imminent threat.