Tribes to appeal court-backed FMC cleanup
By Tim Jackson
Journal Staff Writer
FORT HALL - Shoshone-Bannock tribal leaders say a new pollution
cleanup agreement between FMC Corp. and federal regulators isn't
tough enough to protect people or the environment.
The Fort Hall Business Council announced Thursday it plans to
appeal the October 1998 consent decree made legally enforceable
Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill's order.
"It is the position of the tribes that the Shoshone-Bannock
people and the surrounding communities should not have to suffer
the environmental degradation and detrimental human health impacts,
while the FMC Corporation sows healthy profits from their phosphorus-producing
plant on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation," Chairman Duane
Thompson noted FMC's low operating costs enabled it to stay
in business during the 1990s while its domestic competitors dwindled
"Operating costs were low because FMC failed to install
adequate pollution preventive equipment," Thompson said.
"And now, human health, plant and animal life have been
Tribal leaders said they disagree with Winmill's conclusion
that it is safe enough to require FMC to merely cap its hazardous
waste ponds instead of removing the waste and disposing of it
safely off the reservation.
The ponds span almost 100 acres and contain phosphorus and radioactive
sludge 20 feet deep in spots.
They argued capping the ponds will help, but that without removal
of the waste, toxic arsenic, cadmium and other heavy metals will
continue to leak into groundwater.
In his order, Winmill said the tribes appear to argue that
regulators should have sought to shut down FMC's plant until
FMC was able to install technology to treat wastes produced by
its daily operation.
"It is difficult to see how such a draconian measure would
be in the public interest," Winmill said.
Tribal leaders responded they never suggested federal regulators
should have sought to shut down the plant.
They argued FMC was aware of pending environmental regulatory
requirements in the late 1980s, but chose to postpone compliance
- endangering human health and
Leaders complained that FMC's delays now appear to have worked
in the company's favor.
They said Winmill's decision is based upon political and economic
reasoning, and not the best interests of Fort Hall and Pocatello
or the land.
"FMC's prominent position in the phosphorus industry should
have been all the more reason for proactive social responsibility
rather than dodging environmental compliance," Thompson
The decree requires FMC to spend an estimated $190 million to
correct its environmental problems. The company also was fined
a record $11.8 million.