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Trash cleanup begins on Pine Ridge Reservation

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PINE RIDGE, S.D. (AP) - The Oglala Sioux Tribe has started work to meet a court-ordered June 1 deadline of cleaning up 11 garbage piles on the reservation.

The tribe's environmental protection director, Bob Pille, said the work was held up because of delays in getting funding.

''It took such a long time for the money to come down from the feds, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service, but we've got it and we've actually begun the cleanup,'' Pille said. ''It was supposed to be a 90-day cleanup, but we're doing it in half that time.''

The trash was supposed to be picked up weekly at the 11 transfer sites and taken to a landfill, but collections fell short over the years.

The court order requires not just the initial cleanup, but proper trash disposal and maintenance for up to 15 years.

Rapid City lawyer Jim Leach, who represented several citizens in the legal case for the cleanup, said the court decree includes a monitoring provision designed to prevent a repeat of past neglect.

''That's where the consent decree comes in,'' he said. ''We have five to 15 years of monitoring out there. And if it reverts back to the way it's been, we can go straight back into court. I hope we won't have to do that.''

The BIA and IHS have committed more than $240,000 for the initial cleanup stage, Pille said. The long-standing cleanup and disposal burden will fall to the tribe, which has bonding authority for more than $3.5 million to upgrade its trash hauling, handling and disposal system.

''That's for equipment and all the other costs. It's quite a bit of money the tribe is committing,'' Pille said. ''We're going to get this done.''

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