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Environmental Issues

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#404. Radon in My Community: The Impact of Radon in the Yankton Sioux Communities

After cigarette smoke, radon gas is most often cited as the cause of lung cancer. Radon in My Community begins with a brief history of early study of radon, which largely began in 1984 when a nuclear power plant worker’s clothing detonated alarms in the building. Officials traced the radioactivity not back to the facility, but to the man’s home. The report then explains the correlation between cigarette smoke and radon gas--smoking amplifies the effects of the radon gas on lungs. The smoke allows radioactive daughter particles to remain in the atmosphere where they’re an omnipresent threat to breathing lungs. The report discusses EPA recommendations for homes with high levels of radon, proper testing, and the costs involved. Issues specific to Native Americans are also addressed, such as widespread smoking, high levels of uranium and radon naturally present in the soil, and socio-political factors that make it hard to address the matter of radon poisoning when there are other more immediate maladies demanding attention as well. The report introduces a federally organized 1989 screening test that found that 61.5% of the homes tested on the Yankton Sioux Reservation were over EPA recommended radon levels. Both the findings and the faults of the survey are discussed; the report questions the lack of follow-up testing and failure of the sanitarian to act in a timely fashion upon discovering the over-high levels.

#406. A Report on Southern Missouri Waste Management Association's Proposed Landfill Project in Lake Andes Area, South Dakota

The report begins by defining “environmental racism,” during the application of which, industries target communities that are less educated, older, conservative, and of lower socioeconomic means, for example, communities of color. Solid waste regulations as put forth by the EPA are explained, followed by a discussion of violations of these federal regulations during the submission of SMWMA’s permit application. The proposed facility site is located less than 1000 ft. from a stock dam, springs, and tributaries, and may pollute the Lake Andes water tablet; its proximity to Lake Andes farms, wildlife sanctuaries, and the eagle refuge is also obvious. Further, blatantly ignoring EPA recommendations, the site is located on a sloping plane, magnifying the danger of toxic erosion. SMWMA intends to use a clay liner base to contain waste on the dumpsite and prevent leakage into the environment. They would be better off using a composite liner, however, as leakage due to natural deterioration, lightning strikes, and molecular diffusion are inevitable; leachate that does escape ought to be removed from the site rather than sprayed back into the landfill as SMWMA intends. As dumps can easily become “disease vectors,” documented increases in health problems in populations living close to landfill sites have been noted. Similar to the case with Hydromex, if the facility is located on tribal land, the Yankton Sioux tribe becomes responsible for future leaks and management of dumpsite in the case of company closure. The appendix includes copies of several documents cited in the report, such as Resolution 91-39 of the Yankton Sioux Tribe and a technical review of SMWMA’s landfill permit by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

#410. Recycling or Alleged Recycling? A Review of the Hydromex Waste Processing System.

Hydromex International Ltd. intends to recycle waste material at dumpsites, including toxic chemicals such as paint and leachate, to make low-cost construction products. They claim that the toxicity of their materials is firmly contained or neutralized within the finished product and will not dissipate into the environment over time. This report questions that claim and expresses concern about the neutralization process. From the data gathered from common Hydromex brochures and booklets, the study found surprisingly little information on the limits placed on different kinds of toxic materials that are accepted for processing. It expresses skepticism about Hydromex’s ability to guarantee a complete absence of emissions from the processing as well as their physical ability to “neutralize” chemicals. It is sensibly noted that a majority of users of Hydromex construction products are likely to be of low-income backgrounds, leaving much room for misuse of toxic materials and unethical procedures. Besides the danger presented by the finished product itself, there is the risk of spills when transporting waste to the facility site, not to mention the problem of the facility itself which, complete with large amounts of wastes, could be abandoned at the location if the company were to file for bankruptcy. The Yankton Sioux Tribe, who is considering signing a contract with Hydromex, would then be economically responsible for all medical and environmental damage caused by the forsaken project. Although Hydromex is more established in Europe, there is no information about how their product will be received in the United States, as there has been little formal testing on the finished material. Further, the company’s venture has not been formally approved by the EPA. The report suggests that traditional mandatory recycling would be more effective than Hydromex’s dubious method and includes recommendations for ways to start. Also included in the appendix are letters from other organizations, such as Greenpeace, EPA, and Boulder County Land use Department, and local newspaper articles, urging caution against Hydromex products.

#713. A Study of the Herbicide and Pesticide Use within Lake Andes Watershed on the Yankton Sioux Reservation

One encounters pesticides frequently in daily life in the form of household cleaners, urban exposures, through diet, and at recreational areas. These chemicals can enter the body through a number of channels: oral, dermal, ocular, and through inhalation. One may not feel the effects of the exposure until much later, as children and adults have widely different metabolic rates, and the bodies of adults store chemicals in bone and fatty tissue more easily than those of children. General effects on health may range from minor allergies to serious birth defects and cancer. This report describes EPA registration of pesticides, as all chemicals must be catalogued before they may be sold commercially, and speculates that there must be grave flaws in the process, since many harmful compounds have passed through EPA’s lenient policy. Companies are not required to provide data on long-term effects of their products, and they are required to list only active ingredients in the finished material. As it is the company, and not the EPA, who decides which chemicals ought to be considered active as opposed to inert, there is a wide margin for illegally including dangerous substances in commercial products. Further, the EPA studies the effects of the chemical using a very narrow definition of population and does not account for differences in tolerance based on race, size, age, or sex. In order to assess pesticide use patterns, increased risk patterns, and types of chemicals used around Lake Andes, the Resource Center conducted a household pesticide survey in which they examined health effects, storage and safety practice, and methods of disposal; a copy of the questionnaire is in the appendix. Tables of popular herbicides used by local farmers as well as the drift effect of machinery and techniques used to spray were constructed, and detailed profiles of the chemicals are included in the appendix as well. The report ends with recommendations for cautious and limited use of pesticides.


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