By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
Under settlements with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Navajo Nation EPA (NNEPA), the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) will undertake facility and process improvements to bring its Window Rock wastewater treatment facility into federal and tribal compliance.
The plant treats sanitary sewage for approximately 13,300 residents in Apache County.
Eventually, a new treatment plant will be constructed, with plans and schedules to be approved by EPA and NNEPA. Funding for the new plant includes approximately $10M from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service Water and Waste Disposal Loans and Grants Program.
EPA inspections showed NTUA had been discharging more pollutants than permitted into Black Creek since at least 2011. The creek is a tributary of the Puerco River, which feeds into the Little Colorado.
NTUA also failed to comply with reporting, operational and maintenance guidelines regarding its treatment system.
NNEPA had assessed a $25,000 penalty to the authority, the first time in which a tribally-owned entity was required to pay for violations of the Navajo Nation Clean Water Act. The Authority has until Dec. 31 to bring its facility into full compliance or face additional penalties.
In addition, NTUA plans to build new infrastructure for the treatment plant, conduct sampling, submit quarterly reports, train and certify plant operators, and hold regular compliance meetings with EPA and NNEPA representatives.