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Penobscot Indian Nation - Part II

  Part II of Interview with John Banks, Director of Natural Resources for the
  Penobscot Indian Nation:
  Tribal Vision:  What about chlorine dioxin substitution?
  Banks:  Chlorine dioxin substitution can reduce the amounts of dioxin, but it
  can't eliminate it.  There are dangers to using chlorine dioxide that I don't
  think people are aware of.  For one thing, chlorine dioxide is very, very,
  corrosive.  It's a very dangerous compound.  It cannot be transported legally
  on our highways, it has to be made on site.  The use of additional chlorine
  dioxide does not put the mills on a path toward a closed loop system.
  Tribal Vision:  If there's a safer process, wouldn't it be logical to use
  that process?
  Banks:  Well, yeah, if public health was the primary concern, you'd think
  that would be true.  But there's also an economic issue here.  I think when
  the mills first realized that dioxin was in their effluent, they took steps
  on their own to try and reduce the amount of dioxin discharged.  One of those
  steps was to invest in a process called chlorine dioxide substitution.  So
  they sunk some money into that technology.  I guess they feel the benefits
  from changing direction for environmental improvements, doesn't out weigh the
  economic considerations.
  Tribal Vision:  On January 23, 1997, the EPA issued a wastewater discharge
  permit requiring the Lincoln Pulp and Paper Company to limit dioxin
  discharges to non-detectable levels (10 parts per quadrillion {ppq}).  How is
  the Tribe responding to this decision?
  Banks:  The Penobscot Nation has appealed the permit.  We're waiting for the
  EPA to make a ruling on whether or not they will grant a hearing.  We're
  requesting the hearing on the basis that the ruling doesn't adequately
  discharge the United States Government's trust responsibility to the
  Penobscot Nation, a federally recognized Tribe.  The federal government has a
  responsibility to ensure that our fish from our reservation are clean enough
  for our members to safely consume.
  Tribal Vision:  So you think that action across the country is a little too
  slow and maybe a little too late in coming?
  Banks:  Yes.  Right now the EPA is on the verge of recommending some changes
  in the Pulp and Paper "Cluster Rule", which would set standards for the pulp
  and paper mills.  If the right option is chosen, it could provide a solution.
   It's up to Carol Browner at this point to make recommendations to the White
  House to approve the more stringent option.  Approval will set the mills
  toward a totally chlorine free future, thereby ensuring that these dangerous
  compounds are no longer produced.
  Tribal Vision:  Is there anything else you'd like to say in relation to this
  whole issue?
  Banks:  The issue of dioxin from the kraft mills is very wide spread problem
  and it's not just found in a few isolated spots in the country.  There are
  over a hundred kraft mills in the United States that discharge dioxin.  It
  seems to me that the federal government should take steps to put the mills on
  a path toward a complete elimination of this toxic compound.  Anything short
  of complete elimination of these compounds from the mill discharges is not
  going to solve the public problem.  There are many Tribes across the country
  that have treaty reserved fishing rights that are impacted by dioxin
  discharges.  I think the Tribes are acting like the canary in the coal mine
  here.  If the government doesn't force these mills to make some technological
  changes, the impacts of dioxin are going to be negative and widespread.  The
  impact will go way beyond the Tribes.
  Reproduced for this list by Native Ecology Initiative, with permission from
  John Banks for the Penobscot and Mary Bowannie, for Tribal Vision, National
  Tribal Environmental Council.  The Penobscot have produced a video called
  "The People and Their River" which Native Ecology recommends.  If you'd like
  to obtain a copy the Penobscot can be reached at 6 River Road, Indian Island,
  Old Town, ME. 04468, (207) 827-7776.  Thank you for your attention to the
  concerns of indigenous peoples.