Regulatory requirements and tools for environmental assessment of hazardous wastes: understanding tribal and stakeholder concerns using Department of Energy sites

Author Name: 
Burger, J., Powers, C. and Gochfeld, M.
Publication Date: 
Monday, July 19, 2010
Private File Attachment: 
This article is concerned with confusion with current state regulatory policies and several contradictions that were discovered in research on the law. The article studies the laws and how they were applied to which process of environmental regulation or what processes of land management, the article shows that the laws were inconsistently applied or applied in confusing ways that did not make sense. These confusing laws and decisions often confound those who are trying to clean up and restore contaminated sites, which according to the writers is one of the most pressing environmental problems that the US and the World face. With the world’s environmental issues effecting indigenous societies laws need to be written in language that is clear and not contradictory. The article focuses mainly on the Department of Energy ‘because it has the largest cleanup and remediation task in the United States, has facilities in well over half of the states, and decisions are currently being made at several sites that greatly impact local communities, ecological health, and human health.’ (Brugge, 2010) The issue of the Hanford Nuclear site of Eastern Washington is brought forth, the concern of the local Yakima River tribes for the radionuclides that were washing down the river from the site, the authors accuse DoE of providing information that was insufficient and confusing for the Yakima representative’s to read, they reported dissatisfaction with what they heard. Specific examples of confusion and frustration are detailed in the Burger et. Al. report. Besides the Yakima Indians several circumstances of pollution made worse by legal confusions are the PCB pollution cleanup projects in Tennessee, East Fork Poplar Creek and the Clinch River which flow by the DOE’s Oak Ridge Reservation, the mercury poisoning scares in fish at Brookhaven National Laboratory nearby The Peconic River that flows through Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) on Long Island, New York, the Amchitka Island (Aleutian Chain, Alaska) was the site of three underground nuclear tests (1965e1917) by DOE and finally the Savannah River that passes along the Savannah River Site (SRS, South Carolina), and which separates the site from Georgia. Inside are also six very specific and data rich tables that are well done if you want to understand the topic fully. Conclusion: If a researcher wanted to know more about solving complicated, contentious environmental problems, this article would be quite interesting. As these were case studies, the results and conclusions cannot be replicated elsewhere, and the Burger et. Al. article makes informed opinions about the best direction to go. Overall if you only wanted to read one sentence, the main thrust of this article is that Native Americans need to have ground level collaboration with Department of Energy officials so that they can fully understand their rights under the law and also encourage the lawmakers to design laws that will justly benefit both Tribal Governments and the US Government.