From Gila River Alliance for a Clean Environment (GRACE), via bsnorrell.blogspot.com – A toxic waste treatment facility called Romic Southwest sits in the Gila River Indian Community next to Chandler [in Arizona] .
The U.S. EPA refuses to fine this company despite serious and repeat violations and the people who live and work in the community have little means to do anything about it. That is why [on March 24] dozens of people came out to demand the toxic waste facility be shut down .
People lined both sides of the street near the facility holding signs and banners. Speeches were made as the crowd rallied in an open lot, listening to the stories of ill-health, similar struggles that others are facing around the country, and encouragement. A walk to the location where the police had blocked off the road to the Romic facility was made twice during that day. (source)
Romic “Environmental” Technologies Corporation, which handles approx. 13,000 tons of waste each year, has for decades been run without full permits — developing an extensive history of legal violations, not to mention causing irreprebable damage to the land, and even to the O’odtham themselves.
On their website, the co-founder of Grace reflects:
“In the late 70s my family was affected by chemical exposure for approximately 3 decades even though we were told that is was safe to live on [her Grandfather’s] land… The USEPA [came] back 20 years later to test the site… a number of dangerous chemicals [were] found on site as well as in surrounding areas.”
“DDT (which was banned in the late 60s) and Toxophene (which was banned in the early 70s) and at least 30 other dangerous chemicals. ”
Since the 70’s, “we have experienced a cluster health effects, which includes a high number of miscarriages within the family. Other concerning health problems included misdiagnosed rashes, breathing problems, problems with our bone marrow, and regenerating blood cells.”
For 18 years now, Romic has been stuggling to get a full permit and even expand the facility, inspite of their recalcitrant business practices, and the frequent occurrence of incidents like one in December, which sickened dozens.
In fact, shortly after the incident in December, Grace, along with Green Action was allowed to inspect the Facility… Among other dangers, they found “a container with hazardous waste stored on top of another container, and tilted dangerously so that it appeared it could fall over at anytime” and one container dripping an unknown substance (letter sent to EPA, photo evidence)
the Romic facility…should not be allowed to continue operating until and unless the facility is proved to be safe to the satisfaction of the Gila River Indian Community…
This is an unacceptable situation that poses health, environmental and economic risks to the Gila River Indian Community and nearby community members and businesses. (comments to US EPA on Romic’s “risk assessment”)
The EPA seems to see things differently. In a December 12 article, Cheryl Nelson, an EPA project manager, was quoted as saying
“I wouldn’t characterize (Romic) as any worse or any better than other facilities of the same size that handle the same type of materials.”
“It’s not unusual” (source)
It’s not unusual. If this is not unusual: companies like Romic so lax and care-free, allowed to cut whatever corners it wants without the muss and fuss of being held to account, and then with the EPA being all cool-breeze, even outright supporting the companies abject lack of professionalism — maybe fining them a few thousand dollars, sure — but what’s a couple bucks between friends? Meanwhile the locals get sick pretty routinely. And every once and a while, they receive some putrid stench that might aswell be fetid meat with a twist of random household chemicals, and a hint of chocolate chip to make things interesting…. And then as if to rub their faces in it, both Romic and the EPA throw around statements like “In all reality, nothing in life is 100 percent.” “It’s one of those deals where no one wants it in their backyard.” But of course, we don’t see them diggin’ holes near their homes now do we?
The People of Gila River have quite the problem on there hands, yeah? Or, maybe not actually on their hands — more like in their bodies.
Don’t forget now, we’re not talking about apple sauce here. It’s TOXIC WASTE.
And if both Romic and the EPA are perfectly fine with how things are, well then atleast for the People of Gila River, it’s abundantly clear what has to happen:
” We want to evict them. We want them out of Gila River” — Lori Riddle
I’m sure you’re familiar with this phrase, “it’s easier said than done” — well that doesn’ t seem to be the case here. In fact, Romic can be easily evicted, the Gila River Tribal Council just has to say the word.
To quote Romic’s vice president of operations:
“As the land owner, the Gila River Indian Community could revoke Romic’s lease if it wanted the company out. But the tribe has not come out against the facility.” (source)
My question is, why hasn’t the Tribal Council done so? I say the Tribal Council specifically, because the People are coming out against the facility, but since Modern forms of Indigenous Governance often vests all the power in the hands of a few, it is ultimately the Tribal Council that must make it final. So why haven’t they?
I received this from GRACE a couple days ago:
Lori here and I just have been having technical difficulties when it comes to my e-mail and such. Also, there have been some meetings Raven and I have been attending. Very interesting things going on here. The following events have already happened:
Saturday, March 24th – We had the protest. This was after I had received a letter from the Lone Butte Industrial Park, General Operations Manager (Ester Manuel) which informed me that the “Board” had finalized a policy regarding a “Demonstration Activities Policy”, you know hoops we need to jump. This was followed by the “Board” taking this issue the tribal council and having it approved as an actual Tribal Resolution.
Tuesday, March 27th – Raven and I had presented an update to the Natural Resources Standing Committee, which we were required to go through before we went to the full council. It was at this meeting that we were told the information was not sufficient enough to go before full council and asked to return with further information. They also asked that the Tribal Department of Environmental Quality be present at the next update. It was very discouraging at this point.
Thursday, April 5th – This was the day that the incident at Romic occurred. At this point, Bradley and I had received a brief e-mail telling us that there was an incident at Romic.
Tuesday, April 10th – Raven and I went back to the Natural Resources Standing Committee There were Tribal DEQ employees present, there was a Law Office Lawyer and a Board Member or two from the Lone Butte Industrial Park. It was as this point we again voiced our concern about the Romic facility and informed them about the incident. The Committee asked DEQ to give them details about the incident. Mr. Dan Blair stood up and informed the committee that yes there was an incident and give more details about the incident and furthermore clarified that since the November incident there have been a total of four (4) incidents that that had occurred at the Gila River Romic facility. After some questions of concern from the general audience, we were finally granted a motion to move this issue to full council. They also requested that the Tribal DEQ, the GR Fire Department, the Lone Butte Industrial Park Board, EPA if possible and any other parties related to the issue be present.
Wednesday, April 18th – Raven, Joseph and I went before full council to have our issue heard. I began and give my typical speech on how I felt that Romic needs to be shut down in the community because of their ‘History of Violations’, their bad track record and the concern of tribal members not wanting them here in Gila River. Raven spoke up on behalf of the youth of the community and had many great points to make. Joseph brought up the rear on the making of our points. He had read a wonderfully prepared statement that really hit home. It was at this point that council began to question officials, Margaret Cook, Director DEQ came up and told about how they learned about the incident because the neighboring company called into the office and asked if they should be concerned because buzzers and alarms were going off in the Romic yard and there were Romic employees running away from the facility. The Fire Chief came up to the podium just as one council member was asking why wasn’t the council informed. The Fire Chief replied, we didn’t even know about the incident right away because Romic did not call 911, instead they called the Lone Butte Industrial Park secretary. When the Fire Department found out about the situation they had it under control. A board member came up and pretty much downplayed the situation and made some pretty insensitive remarks toward me, attempting to discredit me and my information. I am asking that any of you willing to write letters of support for our cause please do so and I’d be happy to submit those as part of our information for council packets. When everything was said and done the motion was made that we bring any additional information crucial to the council making a decision. We need to go back through committee level and return back to full council in 30 days. That motion was voted on and unanimously accepted.
Gila River Alliance for a Clean Environment
(520) 315-2169 phone
Indigenous Peoples are putting their bodies on the line and it's our responsibility to make sure you know why. That takes time, expertise and resources - and we're up against a constant tide of misinformation and distorted coverage. By supporting IC you're empowering the kind of journalism we need, at the moment we need it most.