Environmental investigations and remediation on Native lands requires a unique set of qualifications: environmental experts who understand how to navigate the complexity of environmental regulation and jurisdiction, consider cultural sensitivities and mitigate adverse impacts to cultural values and environmental resources, maintain stakeholder engagement, and promote environmental justice.
A Native American tribe retained Hargis as its technical consultant in a litigation support capacity after a utility constructed a groundwater remediation facility. The litigation alleged that the facility adversely impacted a sacred area.
In the early years of utility operation, a chemical biocide had been used in the plant’s cooling tower waters. The cooling water blowdown was discharged to a nearby wash. As a result of this discharge, groundwater in the underlying aquifer was contaminated with the biocide. Recognition of the potential for impacted groundwater to enter a nearby river prompted the regulatory agency, under its Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) authority, to require the utility to enact interim measures to control the plume.
Accordingly, the utility constructed a groundwater extraction and treatment (GET) system comprised of extraction wells to maintain a landward groundwater gradient away from the river and an onsite treatment plant to treat contaminated groundwater.
Native Lands Impacted
Normally, such a remedial measure would be considered a positive environmental measure. However, at this site, construction and operation of the treatment plant and the associated actions adversely affected traditional cultural property
sacred to the tribe and defaced a portion of a sacred religious ground.
Hargis assisted the tribe in its review of the myriad of state and federal regulatory documents issued.