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Settlement with Omaha Tribe of Nebraska Creates Sustainable Path Forward for Tribal Utility Operations to Protect Residents and Environment

Release Date: 08/29/2014
Contact Information: Ben Washburn, 913-551-7364, washburn.ben@epa.gov

Environmental News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Lenexa, Kan., Aug. 29, 2014) - The Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, a federally recognized Native American tribe located in northeastern Nebraska, and the Tribe’s Utilities Commission have reached a settlement with the United States to improve the Tribe’s drinking and wastewater systems and its trash collection program.

The settlement, in the form of a judicial Consent Decree filed with the U.S. District Court of Nebraska, resolves the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s claims that the Tribe failed to comply with a 2011 EPA Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) alleging longstanding violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Clean Water Act. The settlement requires the Tribe to implement utilities improvements valued at approximately $1 million and pay a civil penalty of $2,000.

“This settlement is designed to build the Tribe’s financial, managerial and technical capacity, which will allow it to operate and maintain compliant and sustainable utilities,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks. “I commend the Tribe for working with EPA to protect the health of its residents and to ensure compliance with environmental laws.”

The Consent Decree addresses utilities serving the towns of Macy and Walthill, Neb., on the Omaha Reservation; the Macy Public Water System, the Macy Public Wastewater Treatment Facility, and the solid waste collection system. Collectively, the utilities serve approximately 310 residential households and 32 commercial customers. The utilities are operated by the Omaha Tribal Utility Commission on behalf of the Omaha Tribe.

Violations of the AOC included failure to provide timely notice to the public and to EPA of numerous significant pressure losses and water outages associated with the drinking water system; failure to submit utilities budgets and operating plans; failure to perform necessary repairs and conduct required monitoring and reporting for the drinking and waste water systems; and failure to clean up the extensive open dump located at the Tribe’s Mother Earth Recycling Center.

Among the requirements of the Consent Decree, the Tribe must:

    • Create and maintain a reserve account to fund utilities emergencies and infrastructure
    • Hire and retain certified drinking and wastewater operators
    • Provide drinking and wastewater training to utilities staff and management
    • Inspect and repair components of the drinking water system
    • Complete cleanup of the recycling center dump and evaluate associated residual contamination
    • Outsource operations of the drinking water system if the Tribe cannot meet certain requirements ensuring the continuous provision of safe drinking water
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