January 17, 2024 — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on January 10 a deal with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) to better manage wastewater at three of its Arizona facilities – Chinle, Kayenta, and Tuba City. Under a Partial Consent Decree, NTUA will upgrade its wastewater treatment, costing around $100 million. These changes will benefit about 20,000 people in four communities within the Navajo Nation.
The EPA found that NTUA wasn’t treating its wastewater properly according to the Clean Water Act. They weren’t cleaning the water enough before releasing it and had issues maintaining their sewer systems, leading to sewage spills.
NTUA’s plan includes making short-term improvements and building new treatment plants in the long term. They’ll also move the Tuba City plant to a safer location to avoid potential disasters caused by erosion. NTUA has to make its operations better and check its sewer pipes for any problems, planning to fix them. The specifics of these repairs will be discussed later.
David M. Uhlmann of the EPA highlighted that untreated sewage was being released, and this settlement would lead to cleaner water for the Navajo Nation. Amy Miller of the EPA added that this action is part of the Agency’s goal in protecting public health and the environment, especially in tribal communities.
Improving NTUA’s wastewater treatment will help the environment and public health. Clean water is essential for fish, preventing harmful algal blooms, and ensuring that people can use the water safely. Sewage spills are dangerous because they can expose people to harmful germs.
NTUA is getting financial help for these upgrades from various federal agencies, including the EPA, and from recent laws like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the American Rescue Plan Act. Most of the $100 million cost will be covered by these grants.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the EPA are handling this case. The agreement is still open for public comments and needs final approval by a court. You can view the Partial Consent Decree at the Justice Department’s website: www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees.
Image Description and Credit:
“This is the town of Chinle in northeastern Arizona. It is the namesake of the Chinle Formation, a Upper Triassic stratigraphic unit principally consisting of nonmarine shales. A fluvial conglomerate-sandstone unit called the Shinarump Conglomerate Member is at the base of the formation. Chinle shales and the Shinarump Conglomerate outcrop nearby, especially in Canyon de Chelly east of town. Locality: view from Tsegi overlook, southern rim of Canyon de Chelly, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, northeastern Arizona, USA.” James St. John, September 2007 via Wikimedia Commons.