Opinion: Jurisdictional issues and Cabazon recycling plant

"The EPA has taken action to close a Mecca, CA waste processing facility after months of complaints from neighbors that the facility has emitted foul odors, often sickening them. The Mecca facility, operated by Western Environmental, Inc. (WEI) and its owner Waste Reduction Technologies (WRT), accepts contaminated soil, treated sewage sludge, soy whey, and other organic compostables for "remediation and reprocessing."

Many Coachella Valley residents have speculated that the delay in environmental law enforcement stems from jurisdictional issues. The WRT facility is on land belonging to the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians. WRT, whose lease of the site was approved by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, has maintained that it doesn't need state permits to operate on Indian land. That issue may be resolved in court. Two weeks ago, at a meeting at Saul Martinez Elementary called by SCAQMD to discuss the air quality issues surrounding WRT, residents appealed directly to Cabazon Tribal Chairman David Roosevelt to close the plant. Roosevelt responded that the tribe had been working with WRT to close the soy whey pond and contain oily wastewater. "Give us time," he told those in attendance, according to the Riverside Press Enterprise. "There has been a rapid response. We are doing what we can as fast as we can."

Toxic waste dumps are no strangers to tribal lands in the Coachella Valley. The Valley's checkerboarded Indian lands, home to modest communities of for the most part working class folks, have long been the prize in the eyes of landfill developers, toxic waste brokers, and other such industrialists whose operations would be less welcome in more affluent communities. "

Get the Story:
Chris Clarke: Clearing The Air In Mecca (KCET 5/11)

Related Stories:
EPA takes action on recycling plant on Cabazon Reservation (5/10)
Residents demand closure of plant at Cabazon Reservation (4/29)
Odor at reycling plant on Cabazon Reservation stirs neighbors (3/28)

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