The Progressive


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For Immediate Release
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EPA Desecrating Native Artifacts on Superfund Sites

Widespread Noncompliance Wipes Out Invaluable Prehistoric and Cultural Heritage


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is needlessly destroying
irreplaceable artifacts at hundreds of toxic clean-up sites across the
country, according to a complaint filed today by Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER) with the EPA Office of Inspector
General. The complaint details how EPA and its contractors routinely
shrug off required site surveys before they begin to blast or excavate,
destroying significant historic and prehistoric cultural resources in
the process.

The PEER complaint focuses on one recent Superfund clean-up of an
old mine on the Elem Indian Colony reservation in northern California's
Lake County. In that 2006 operation, EPA -

  • Began work without any site survey to determine whether it had historic or cultural significance;
  • Ignored a complaint from tribal officials; and
  • Destroyed more than $50 million in archaeological treasures

"These are not emergency operations that preclude consultation and
study before opening up a trench," stated PEER Counsel Adam Draper, who
filed the complaint. "There is no reason why EPA, of all agencies,
cannot obey basic resource protection laws."

In addition to the Elem site, the PEER complaint points to similar
violations ranging from Oklahoma to the island of Saipan. In some
instances, EPA has disturbed human remains as well as historic and
prehistoric resources.

"We believe that what EPA did in California is not an isolated
incident but is part of a pattern that is taking place in hundreds of
locations across the country," Draper added. "EPA digs first and does
not even bother to ask questions later."

PEER is asking the Inspector General to -

  • Review what happened on the Elem Indian Colony, identify the
    responsible agency officials and determine whether compensation should
    be paid;
  • Survey other EPA Superfund operations to develop an
    authoritative estimate as to how widespread agency noncompliance is
    with historic preservation laws and its own Superfund regulations; and
  • Recommend steps that would minimize EPA violations.

"We want the Inspector General to find out why the Environmental
Protection Agency is not also protecting our cultural and historic
heritage," Draper concluded.


Read the PEER complaint to the EPA IG

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.