Comprehensive Contamination Cleanup Needed - SMSC: Soybean Oil To Biodiesel
By Kathy Helms
CHURCHROCK – The Red Water Pond Road Community Association was founded in April 2007, two days after Navajo Nation officials said some families would have to move temporarily while U.S. Environmental Protection Agency workers removed radioactive soil from around their homes.
Three years later, emergency removal of 6,500 cubic yards of radium-contaminated soil from residents' yards is complete and the interim removal of an additional 100,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil is nearly done.
However, cleanup of another 900,000 cubic yards at nearby Northeast Churchrock Mine is in a holding pattern while federal and tribal environmental agencies determine how to move forward.
The enormity of the problem has gotten even bigger as U.S. EPA Region 9 officials debate a comprehensive cleanup that would include the former Kerr-McGee Quivira Mine adjacent to Northeast Churchrock, and newly discovered radioactive contamination a foot deep on Red Water Pond Road itself.
Residents raised objections last August to EPA's proposed cleanup plan, which called for Northeast Churchrock waste to be disposed of on top of an existing unlined cell at the former United Nuclear Corp. uranium mill, a federal Superfund site, fearing the weight of the waste could cause further problems.
Until Thursday evening, most of the cleanup talk had been fairly technical, with little mention of cultural and traditional values from the Dine perspective, other than a casual mention of protecting sacred sites and plants. Enter Philmer Bluehouse, a traditional peacemaker-medicine practitioner.
“We know that we had a series of meetings in the past and we know that those meetings did not really come to some kind of a fruition. Because of the lack of coming to a consensus, I was hired to come here to try to assist this community, EPA and others who are here. My role is to guide everybody to make those decisions as a commitment to clean up the mess,” Bluehouse said during a meeting at Churchrock Chapter House.
Residents have met with federal officials numerous times since 2007 without reaching a decision on how the cleanup will proceed.
Usually at the community meetings, EPA outlines its proposal and spends the rest of the evening fielding questions from the community. But last week, EPA officials spent a good deal of the evening listening, as Bluehouse introduced them to Navajo traditional thinking.
“At the place of creation, at the place of empty, there was positive and negative energy. How do we apply that in our current state of affairs? Anger, mistrust, these are the negative energies. Negative energy is the place we begin,” Bluehouse told them.
“Because they come from a different culture, it's difficult to transition that kind of knowledge into analytical, critical, linear thinking,” he said. “Ours out here is more of a healing thinking and a circular thinking, and a combination also of linear thinking. It's just a matter of learning to communicate with each other. We want to heal and get things done,” he said.
Teddy Nez, president of the community association, estimates that there are 250 to 300 people living within 2 miles of Northeast Churchrock Mine site and the UNC mill.
“Some of our families live within 500 feet of the Northeast Churchrock Mine, the U.S. EPA's highest priority uranium mine on the Navajo Nation,” Nez said. Extended family members have lived in the area for seven generations, in the areas of Red Water Pond Road, Pipeline Road, and Old Churchrock Mine Road.
Residents who worked in the mines are impacted by various types of illnesses, but they're not the only ones affected. Nez says many community members suffer from environmentally induced post-traumatic stress syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder simply from living near abandoned uranium mines.
As an “environmental justice” community, residents want to be at the table for all decisions affecting them. They are asking EPA to require General Electric remove all contaminated materials from the mine site and dispose of it off-site. They want Quivira Mine, now owned by Rio Algom, assessed and cleaned up as well.
Residents are requesting EPA come up with cost estimates for replacing homes now located in the step-out area north of Northeast Churchrock Mine with new homes built about 1 to 1-1/2 miles west, toward the mouth of the canyon. They say the homes should be replaced before reclamation of the mine begins to avoid exposing residents to contamination from excavation and construction activities.
They also want the current alignment of Pipeline Road abandoned and a new alignment constructed. Nez said the road now runs through the UNC tailings area and residents come into direct contact with contamination.
“To heal this land, to heal the people, that's what my mission is,” Bluehouse said. “The players that need to do that are here – U.S. EPA, Navajo Nation EPA, the community and the corporations. My job is just to bring those healing qualities out and get it done.
“All too often people get into disagreements and everybody just leaves with negative energy. Here, we're trying to leave with good energy and say, 'This is what we're going to do, and this is how we're going to do it.'”
At the end of Thursday's meeting, the one definitive accomplishment was scheduling another meeting for July 10.
But as Bluehouse and agency officials were walking out of the chapter house toward their vehicles, Luis Garcia-Bakarich, EPA community involvement coordinator, pointed excitedly to a tall tree overhanging the chapter, its branches illumined by street lights against the night sky.
A huge hawk, accompanied by two smaller birds, landed in the tree as Garcia-Bakarich watched. Everyone stopped in their tracks and shared a positive moment – one which Bluehouse said could have many different interpretations.
The SMSC Biodiesel Project: From French Fries To Shuttles
by Yessa Lehto,
Prior Lake, MN – An innovative project undertaken by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community recycles soybean oil used to fry chicken, french fries, and other foods into biodiesel. After the used oil from the nine SMSC restaurant kitchens is converted into biodiesel, it is used to fuel shuttle buses which transport guests and employees between properties around the Community. The project celebrated its one year anniversary April 29, 2010.
The SMSC Gaming Enterprise Property Maintenance Fleet Services Department oversees the biodiesel project along with the SMSC Department of Land and Natural Resources. Since it became operational it has processed 4,500 gallons of oil into 3,655 gallons of biodiesel; and 16,394 gallons of biodiesel blended with regular diesel fuel was pumped into SMSC vehicles during the first year.
The idea was sparked in 2005 when fuel prices began to rise after Hurricane Katrina. SMSC Chairman Stanley R. Crooks promoted the concept, talking with various staff about his vision for utilizing green technology to operate tribal vehicles. In the fall of October 2007, various SMSC staff began looking at ways to bring the idea to fruition. Although it took time to research the possibilities, by the spring of 2009, the SMSC was ready to begin producing biodiesel.
Today, used oil is gathered from the restaurants using a collection unit designed by Satellite Industries of Plymouth, Minnesota. The collection unit is fitted onto the back of a pickup truck detailed for this project. Oil is collected once a week from restaurants at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, every other week from Little Six Restaurant, and once a month from the Tipi Restaurant.
After the oil is collected, it’s tested to determine its moisture and free fatty acids contents. If the oil passes those tests, 100 gallons is pumped into the BioPro 380 processor at a time. Twenty gallons of methanol (wood alcohol) and small amounts of potassium chloride and sulfuric acid are added to the machine.
Very little interaction is needed until vinegar is added late in the process. Forty-eight hours later approximately 95 gallons of biodiesel and 25 gallons of glycerin have been produced. The glycerin is currently drained out and composted at the SMSC Compost Site. Other uses for glycerin are being explored since it can have medical, pharmaceutical, and personal uses.
“The biodiesel project fits in nicely with our priority of taking care of the earth and other ‘green’ SMSC initiatives,” said SMSC Chairman Stanley R. Crooks. “We hope as we settle into the project, we will be able to use up all the oil and train more staff so that we can better use this unexpected energy resource.”
Not all of the used cooking oil is needed for biodiesel in the winter. The cold weather requires the blending of up to 80% petroleum diesel with the biodiesel. To make use of the excess oil, the SMSC burns it in a boiler in the Public Works Building on Dakotah Parkway to generate heat. A similar system burns used motor oil to heat the Fleet Operations Bay in a different part of the same building.
Biodiesel By The Numbers:
- 18,000 gallons of waste cooking oil is produced by the nine SMSC kitchens each year.
- Up to 1,080 gallons of biodiesel is produced each month.
- 26 vehicles, including 5 shuttle buses, run on biodiesel currently.
- The biodiesel facility is 364 square feet.
- Twenty gallons of methanol (wood alcohol) is added to the machine along with smaller amounts of potassium chloride and a small amount of sulfuric acid. Vinegar is also used late in the process.
- 100 gallons of oil are processed with approximately 20 gallons of chemicals at a time which yields approximately 95 gallons of biodiesel and 25 gallons of glycerin in 48 hours.
- It takes 24 hours to produce just the glycerin.
- 16,394 gallons of biodiesel was pumped into vehicles from April 29, 2009, through April 29, 2010.
- A 400 gallon truck-mounted tank is used by staff for collecting waste cooking oil and transporting it to the biodiesel facility.
- Oil is collected once a week from restaurants at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, every other week from Little Six Restaurant, and once a month from the Tipi Restaurant.
- In the SMSC blend, including the 5% Minnesota state mandate, usage is 20% biodiesel in the winter, and 50/50 in the summer. Plans are to work up to 100% for the shuttle buses.
- Biodiesel is tested to see if it’s clean/pure, using 3 ml of the new biodiesel and 27 ml of methanol for what’s called the 3/27 test to check for a complete reaction.
- U.S. biodiesel reduces lifecycle carbon emissions by 60-80%, depending on the source, making it the best carbon reduction tool of any liquid fuel commercially available.
TO SUBMIT an ARTICLE, OPINION PIECE, COMMENTS to the Native Unity Digest, e-mail email@example.com.
NATIVE UNITY - A place for Native American Peoples to solidify their tribes to make a positive impact on the cultural, social, economic and political fabric of American society and a place for non-Natives to better understand the ways of the American Indian.
News Blog - American Indian Report - AIR BLOG
THE BUFFALO POST - Missoulian Montana's Native News Blog about Native People And The World We Live In.
Check Out NATIVE PRIDE- It's a great site!
NATIVE AMERICA, DISCOVERED AND CONQUERED
PATHOLOGY.ORG - Up-to-date informmational database on general health and disease information, medical schools and medical resources.
FOR ANNIE'S NATIVE CELEBRITY NEWS
- go to http://www.nativecelebs.com/
SUPPORTING NATIVE AMERICAN/FIRST PEOPLE - ARTISTS, FILM MAKERS, ENTERTAINERS, ETC.