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Tribe levies $1 million fine against landfill

Tahlequah, Oklahoma (AP) 9-07

The Cherokee Nation Environmental Protection Commission has given a private landfill operator 30 days to pay a fine of more than $1 million.

The commission imposed the fine after citing five violations on July 7 at the 400-acre Indian Country Investments LLC landfill 51/2 miles south of Stilwell. Tribal procedures give the company 15 days to ask for a hearing to review the action.

The site is owned by the Cherokee Nation as trust property but run by Indian Country Investments and subject to both tribal and federal environmental law.

Alleged violations include leakage from an unlined storage pond, failing to cover accumulated refuse adequately with soil, and excessive methane gas levels.

Action was tabled on two additional alleged infractions involving an industrial waste permit and stormwater.

The industrial permit infraction was called an administrative problem rather than environmental, commission Chairman Marty Matlock said.

Commissioners said a lack of action by the permit group prompted the tribal commission to act.

“Some of the things that happened here have mitigating circumstances, but some are `hide your head in the sand and pretend it didn’t happen,”’ Matlock said. “It needs to be in compliance for the Cherokee Nation and for all the people in Oklahoma.”

Indian Country Investments manager Doug Bane said some of the recommendations made by the commission could be implemented more quickly than others.

The company was given 20 days to initiate compliance measures.

Tribal Councilor Jannelle Lattimore Fullbright said she is concerned for the children who swim in creeks downstream.

But Jeannine Hale, the administrator of environmental programs for the tribe, said the alleged violations posed no health threats to nearby residents.

According to Tribal Council documents, the Cherokee’s only landfill opened in 1982. Indian Country Investments took over operations in 2005.

Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com
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