Recently, while in New Mexico attending the 4th annual Tribal Lands Forum, EPA’s Region 6 Regional Administrator Ron Curry and I were honored to be hosted by the Governor of the Santa Clara Pueblo Bruce Tafoya, the Tribal Sheriff Regis Chavarria, and the Environmental Director Joseph Chavarria on a tour of the Pueblo and its surrounding areas.
I experienced first-hand the impact of recent flooding and fire on canyon lands that are culturally significant to the Santa Clara Pueblo. The Pueblo launched an organized multi-year emergency response effort to address imminent dangers and eventually restore the canyon’s land and water.
Santa Clara Pueblo is also coordinating with EPA on a Superfund cleanup of the North Railroad Ave Plume site to address groundwater contamination and has a list of brownfields sites − properties that are underused/abandoned because of contamination. We visited a site contaminated with asbestos and lead which formerly housed the Tribal Council, which the tribe plans to address by applying for an EPA brownfields assessment and cleanup grant.
To address and prevent illegal dump sites, the Tribe provides public outreach and has a well established solid waste program with a transfer station to handle their solid waste and recycling. Recently, tribes such as the Santa Clara Pueblo were asked to comment on EPA’s Agency-Wide Plan to Provide Solid Waste Management Capacity Assistance to Tribes that has recently been finalized to develop and implement an approach for coordinating the agency’s assistance to tribes in their development of integrated waste management plans.
The highlight of the tour was a visit to the ancient Puye cliff dwellings. As we observe Native American Heritage month, the majestic environment of the ancient Pueblo is a powerful reminder of how important it is to protect and sustain the health and environment of the Native American communities by working cooperatively with our tribal co-regulators.
Mathy Stanislaus is the Assistant Administrator in EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER), leading the Agency’s land cleanup, solid waste and emergency response programs. Mr. Stanislaus is a chemical engineer and environmental lawyer with over 20 years of experience in the environmental field in the private and public sectors. He received his law degree from Chicago Kent Law School and Chemical Engineering Degree from City College of New York.