Generation of waste is an unavoidable aspect of everyday life. Domestic, municipal, and agricultural wastes all contain constituents that can negatively impact human health as well as the natural environment if not disposed of properly. Containers retaining residues of paint, antifreeze, and motor oils may leach into ground waters or drinking water supplies and compromise groundwater quality. Solid wastes such as discarded car batteries, refrigerators, and air conditioners may contain toxins such as Freon and sulfuric acid which may also contaminate ground waters. Therefore, it is vital that these materials are disposed of properly to protect human health and welfare and the environment.
Additionally, abandoned, leaking, underground storage tanks present an ongoing threat to Reservation ground waters. Tanks installed several years ago to store gasoline, diesel fuel, or heating oil often begin to leak as the tank walls degrade with age. Once ground waters and subsurface soils are contaminated with fossil fuels, it is extremely difficult to remove the contaminants and clean up the area. Therefore, the Tribes have committed staff and funding to address solid and hazardous waste issues on the Reservation.
The Solid and Hazardous Waste Program was established in 1991. The program currently has one part-time staff position. The program received RCRA Demonstration Project funds in 1995 to close abandoned underground storage tanks.
Since 2002, the program’s main focus is cleaning open dumps, promoting recycling, completion of a solid waste management plan, and hazardous materials inventory, and a Solid Waste Ordinance.
In June of 2004, the tribal council adopted a solid waste management plan. The plan focuses on solid waste management for the tribes and includes provisions to investigate large scale recycling efforts to reduce solid waste.
In February 2009, the tribal council adopted a Solid Waste ORDINANCE NO. 106A. and its purpose are to:
- Protect the health, welfare, political integrity, and economic security of the Tribe, its members, and residents on the reservation;
- Protect the historical and cultural values and traditions of the Tribes, and the Flathead Indian Reservation as permanent Tribal homeland;
- Prevent Indian Reservation environment, including air, surface and groundwater’s, biota, and soils from impacts from improper disposal of waste;
- Provide and promote Tribal environmental protection services within the reservation to prevent littering and development of open dumps through regulation of the storage, collection, transportation, and disposal of solid waste by persons subject to the jurisdiction of the Tribes; and
- Comply with the disposal of solid waste on the Reservation as required by Federal Law.
The Solid Waste Program is currently revising the Solid Waste Ordinance adding junk vehicles and used oil. By doing so will protect, control, and maintain the reservation’s prestige environment, its people, and their culture.
Mission Statement: "The Solid/Hazardous Waste Program is charged with the development and implementation of Solid Waste Management regulatory program, and other programs related to solid or hazardous wastes as deemed necessary by the Tribal Council for the protection of the unique environment of the Flathead Reservation."