The federal Environmental Protection Agency has formally recognized Fort Hall as a major player in Clean Air Act issues. "We call it treatment in the same manner as a state,'' said Doug Cole, EPA tribal program coordinator. Congress approved an amendment in 1991 allowing federally recognized tribes to qualify to enforce the Clean Air Act on reservation land. The tribes applied in October 1999. Cole said the Sho-Ban are the first Idaho tribes - and to his knowledge the first nationally - to be elevated to state status in dealing with air quality enforcement. "Basically, when everything is done in this state, the tribes will have a federally enforceable program that includes all air pollution sources,'' said Farshid Farsi, air quality manager for the tribes. "We are still cooperating with the EPA as the deadlines come and go for the improvements at Astaris (formerly the FMC Corp.).'' The tribes can apply for funding as an entity - in the past funds were allocated through EPA. And if an inter-state agency were set up, the tribes would participate. Cole said it is law that if Idaho were to issue a permit for a major facility near the reservation, officials would forward it for tribal review and comment. The tribes may have a solution to end problems with contaminated water. The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory has given the Sho-Ban a portable water treatment unit, which tribe officials hope will prove useful. Residents of the Fort Hall Town Site have had to use bottled water several times when a plume of the pesticide Ethylene Dibromide breached carbon filters maintained by the Fort Hall Water and Sewer District. "Anything we can possibly get to help us provide clean water will be a benefit to the community,'' Claudeo Broncho, tribal vice chairman said. Jack Williams, a waste reduction operations supervisor for the INEEL, said the Department of Energy could not use the $100,000 water treatment unit. He said that because of federal regulations, "it would have cost more to clean up the unit than to find an alternate treatment.'' That included chemical stabilization and evaporation-type techniques to treat low-level waste. The portable water treatment trailer went into INEEL excess equipment storage until a deal between the Sho-Ban and the INEEL helped the tribes obtain the unit earlier this year.
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