Fixing illegal trash problem on reservation a high-dollar task, say experts

Sep 18, 2019 Clair McFarland, Staff Writer

Addressing the issue that Fremont County Commissioner Mike Jones describes as a quandary with "no oversight," Wyoming lawmakers are consulting with Wind River Indian Reservation solid waste officials to address illegal garbage dumping on the reservation.

It was former Wind River Environmental Quality Commis-sion director Ryan Ortiz who described the state of litter as "rampant" in his talks with state legislators in an August meeting. (Ortiz has since left the position in solid waste to accept a job as chief financial officer for the Northern Arapaho Tribe.)


Ortiz said council woman Snyder and Fremont County Solid Waste District

Superintendent of Operations Andy Frey estimated there were about 400 tons of

garbage at the Fort Washakie transfer site and 800 tons at the Ethete site - not including the garbage illegally dumped on the rural expanses throughout the rest of the reservation.

Ortiz estimated a financial effort into the hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get the sites back to manageable levels going forward.

"It's a real money problem," he said. "We have a daunting task out here." He also said that he would likely use a Casper waste management system for the final disposal of allocated trash, saying that it was "nothing personal" against county officials, but that it would save his agency about $100,000 a year to make that change.

Fees and enforcement

Fremont County Solid Waste District Superintendent of Operations Andy Frey also testified before the subcommittee, and said that the county has 20 small scale, low hazard, low volume transfer stations in rural areas that are similar in every respect to the ones on the reservation, with two exceptions: they charge fees and are secured during off-hours.

"We run those sites in a somewhat different manner in that we charge fees; we have them fenced; the gates are closed and locked when the sites are not open."

Frey noted that the many changes in solid waste systems and hours have indeed caused illegal dumping throughout the county, but that the Fremont County Sheriff's Office has been wholly supportive of the

county entity in investigating and charging those crimes.

Frey said Sheriff's deputies have come out "and helped us investigate illegal dumping, and pursued those that were (implicated in) said crime."

Nevertheless, said Frey, his agency still contends with cleanup on a regular basis due to a "tremendous amount" of illegal dumping in Fremont County "and Wyoming in general."

The reservation dump sites, conversely, do not charge fees, at present.

"In fact, the gates are swung open 24 hours a day; no fee is charged... Additionally, people are not even driving into the fenced site, but disposing of their waste right next to the site, even though it's free."

State Senator Cale Case (R-Lander) said that addressing the lax legal formations around these infractions would be the best start toward conquering the issue. "If we could get those transfer stations with someone there, and regular hours, and a locked gate, and some enforcement of the dumping - that would accomplish a lot. It would be a beginning."

He also noted that charging fees might help the Wind River Environmental Quality Commission compensate for some of the funds it expends on cleanup.

Again, council woman Snyder said it would require motivation on the part of at least 150 Eastern Shoshone tribal enrollees to gather at a general council meeting - in order to make a legal change in the tribal codes for harsher littering penalties.

Grant eligibility

Representatives from the EPA attended the meeting by phone, and when Ortiz put the question of funding to them, one of the EPA representatives said that federal funding could be available, but not without a memorandum of understanding between the two tribes of the reservation making it clear to the EPA how the money would be divided and used.

"Absent some sort of agreement or memorandum of understanding between Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapahoe business councils... neither tribe, individually, is currently eligible for gap funds," the representative noted.

However, Ortiz and Snyder arranged with the EPA to have further talks on the subject as well as the construction of a memorandum of understanding.

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