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Fort Peck Finds Key To Controlling Open Dumping

“Tribes need to provide convenient alternatives to open dumping. Roll-off containers are a good option for small reservations where residents live along main routes that are close to a landfill. It doesn’t make sense to build a full-scale transfer station when the landfill is only 20 minutes away.” - Deb Madison, environmental program manager, Fort Peck Environmental Protection Office

Convenience and affordability—these are the keys to successful solid waste service, the Fort Peck reservation discovered. Like many geographically large reservations, the Fort Peck Reservation found providing effective solid waste services to its dispersed population a challenge. The Fort Peck tribes learned that offering a combination of affordable curbside collection and several permanent waste drop-off sites helped facilitate proper solid waste management.

The Fort Peck Reservation, home to the Assiniboine and Sioux Nations, covers more than 2 million acres in northeast Montana. The reservation’s 10,300 residents, more than half of which are enrolled tribal members, are spread across six towns—Poplar, Wolf Point, Brockton, Frazer, Fort Kipp, and Oswego—in two counties—Valley County (Oswego and Frazer) and Roosevelt County (Poplar, Wolf Point, and Brockton).

Collection Service Expands to Six Towns

In 1983, the tribal Operations and Maintenance Department (O&M) began providing solid waste collection service to residents in outlying areas of the reservation. Under this weekly collection service, three to four households shared a large black plastic barrel provided by O&M. O&M also designated collection areas for large goods such as couches and appliances. During the 1990s, O&M began expanding collection service to the six towns.

In Brockton and Frazer, the tribes pay a hauler to provide curbside collection services. The company collects and hauls waste to the Valley County Landfill. To pay for this service, the tribes incorporated a $10-per-month charge into residents’ utility bills, starting in 1992. Initially, the tribes received numerous complaints from community members, but over the years residents have gotten used to paying for waste disposal. When O&M decided the monthly fee needed to be increased to $14, it held a public hearing to ask residents if they would prefer to use a roll-off container or pay the higher collection fee. Residents in Frazer decided to pay the higher fee. Residents in Brockton initially chose the roll-off container option, but later asked to have the collection service resumed.

The cities of Wolf Point and Poplar run their own collection service and also bill residents through their utility bills. At this time, Fort Kipp and Oswego do not offer curbside collection.

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Roll-Off Sites Prove Useful

By the early 1990s, the Fort Peck tribes realized that the curbside collection service alone was not meeting all of the reservation’s needs. Several documented cases of illegal dumping and a number of unsightly white-good collection areas pushed the tribes to explore new disposal options. The tribes initiated discussions with neighboring Valley County to investigate the county's successful roll-off sites. Based on these discussions, the tribes decided to adopt this roll-off site design for the reservation.

The Fort Peck Reservation currently has five roll-off sites, all managed by O&M. The largest site, located in Poplar, consists of a concrete head wall and three 40-cubic-yard roll-off bins. A gatekeeper at the site checks permits, screens for unacceptable materials (such as hazardous waste), and educates residents about recycling. The other four sites, located in Brockton, Fort Kipp, Frazer, and Oswego, are unstaffed and contain a single roll-off bin each. To finance operation and maintenance of these roll-off sites, O&M issues monthly permits that cost residents $15. Businesses and contractors pay $300 per month.

To build the Oswego and Frazer sites, the tribes used a HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). Waste collected at these sites is taken to a landfill in Valley County. The tribes pay the county $75 for each of the 99 households in Oswego and Frazer to use the landfill. The Poplar, Wolf Point, and Brockton sites were built with IHS Sanitation Deficiency Services funds. O&M hauls waste from these sites to a landfill in Roosevelt County, operated by the city of Wolf Point. At this landfill, the tribes pay a per-ton tipping fee.

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Creating a Public Works Committee Board That Works

To speed up the decision-making process and streamline O&M’s management of the roll-off sites, the tribes established a Public Works Committee Board. The Board makes decisions about day-to-day roll-off site operations and directs O&M to act. Examples of Board decisions include: 1) recommending O&M institute a pay-as-you-throw system at the roll-off sites to increase solid waste program revenues and encourage waste reduction; 2) hiring a financial technician to reduce roll-off site costs by reviewing contracts with the counties and developing strict accounting procedures; and 3) authorizing O&M to manage construction and demolition (C&D) debris separately to reduce the tribes' tipping expenses.

Deb Madison, the environmental program manager of the tribes’ Environmental Protection Office, feels that “the board is critical because it sets curbside collection and roll-off site permit rates, applies to outside organizations for funding, and provides an interface between O&M and the tribal council.” She recommends that other tribes establish a Public Works Committee Board. “It will make roll-off site operations run smoother.”

According to Ms. Madison, “Everyone knows that the roll-off sites are successful. Each year, the reservation experiences fewer cases of illegal dumping. O&M has control of roll-off site costs, and our financial technician is working to make solid waste management sustainable for the tribes.”

For more information, contact Deb Madison (2horses@nemontel.net), environmental program manager, Environmental Protection Office at 406 768-5155, ext. 399.

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