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U.S. EPA grant funds Yurok Tribe abandoned underground storage tank assessment

Release Date: 03/11/2008
Contact Information: Wendy Chavez, 415/947-4248, chavez.wendy@epa.gov

Investigation part of overall $4 million EPA initiative to clean up leaking underground tanks

San Francisco – As part of a $30,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Yurok Tribe completed an inventory of 15 underground storage tank sites on its reservation in Klamath, Calif.

The tribe discovered an abandoned tank buried in the front yard of a residence, as well as two other sites that require further investigation -- all potential candidates for federal cleanup funding. The EPA will work with the Yurok Tribe this spring to further investigate the abandoned tanks and clean up any contamination.

Underground storage tanks are a concern on Yurok land because they can potentially affect the nearby Klamath River, which the tribe relies on for salmon fisheries and drinking water, as well as cultural and ceremonial needs.

The tribe also faces increasing problems with illegal dumping, vehicle abandonment, unregulated uses of the land, and overall degradation from adjacent non-tribal land practices.

The EPA’s work with the Yurok Tribe is part of the national Indian Country leaking underground storage tank initiative, which aims to investigate, clean up and close abandoned leaking tanks on tribal lands. To date, the EPA has worked with seven tribes to address 29 sites in the Pacific Southwest. Since 2005, the EPA has closed 15 of those sites and spent over $4 million.

“Leaking underground storage tanks can contaminate precious land and water that tribal communities depend on,” said Nancy Lindsay, the EPA’s Waste Management Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. “The EPA is providing technical, and in many cases, financial assistance to help tribes address the threat these leaking tanks pose to their health and vital resources.”

In addition to the Yurok Tribe, the EPA has worked with the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the Hopi Tribe, the Colorado River Indian Tribes, the Gila River Indian Community, the Navajo Nation and the Tohono O’Odham Nation to address abandoned leaking underground storage tank sites.

The EPA will continue to work with tribes to investigate and clean up sites that show fuel contamination from underground storage tanks at levels threatening human health and the environment.

For more information on the EPA's underground storage tank initiative in Indian Country, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region09/waste/ust/leaking-tanks-indian/.
For information on the EPA’s other work in the Klamath River watershed, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region09/water/watershed/klamath.html