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CSKT to clear the air with Amish business

Air quality violations persist despite warnings

By Adriana Fehrs

Smoke from a large wood burn pile can be seen from across a field. The Tribe has had problems with Amish following burning regulations, and creating nuisance smoke, spanning back seven years. Now CSKT’s back is against the wall and the Division of Fire is working on redrafting a new burning permit. An added clause to the conditions and regulations will require an individual to extinguish any fire that causes a nuisance to others. (Courtesy photo of CSKT Air Quality Program)  Smoke from a large wood burn pile can be seen from across a field. The Tribe has had problems with Amish following burning regulations, and creating nuisance smoke, spanning back seven years. Now CSKT’s back is against the wall and the Division of Fire is working on redrafting a new burning permit. An added clause to the conditions and regulations will require an individual to extinguish any fire that causes a nuisance to others. (Courtesy photo of CSKT Air Quality Program)

ST. IGNATIUS — The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have been dealing with burning permit issues with the Amish community spanning back seven years. Recently, the CSKT Division of Fire and Natural Resources Department have received complaints on smoke from smoldering fires from neighbors of Foothills Post and Lumber LLC., an Amish owned business.

CSKT Air Quality Program faced problems with the Amish communities in previous encounters. Their records show that CSKT approached them several times before when an Amish family had been burning tires, which is prohibited under the CSKT burning permit regulations. At times, some Amish have also lacked burning permits after the open burning season closed.

Chuck Page, CSKT Air Quality Program Specialist, approached the owner of Foothills Post and Lumber, an Amish owned business, on April 30 to inform him that the smoke created from his burn piles were causing a disturbance. Randy Ashley, CSKT NRD Air Quality Program Manager, says, “The owner Jerry seemed very compliant and apologetic, we got the impression that they were going to put the fire out like we told them to, but after we left the premises they did nothing to fix the issue.” For over three weeks a smoldering fire has burned on their property, continuing to cause a disturbance. (Courtesy photo of CSKT Air Quality Program) Chuck Page, CSKT Air Quality Program Specialist, approached the owner of Foothills Post and Lumber, an Amish owned business, on April 30 to inform him that the smoke created from his burn piles were causing a disturbance. Randy Ashley, CSKT NRD Air Quality Program Manager, says, “The owner Jerry seemed very compliant and apologetic, we got the impression that they were going to put the fire out like we told them to, but after we left the premises they did nothing to fix the issue.” For over three weeks a smoldering fire has burned on their property, continuing to cause a disturbance. (Courtesy photo of CSKT Air Quality Program)

Chuck Page, CSKT Air Quality Program Specialist, approached the owner of Foothills Post and Lumber on April 30 to inform him that the smoke created from his burn piles were causing a disturbance. The higher amounts of precipitation from the last few months caused added moisture in burn and woodpiles, resulting in more smoke. Randy Ashley, CSKT NRD Air Quality Program Manager, says, “The owner Jerry seemed very compliant and apologetic, we got the impression that they were going to put the fire out like we told them to, but after we left the premises they did nothing to fix the issue.” For over three weeks a smoldering fire has burned on their property, continuing to cause a disturbance.

From Foothills Road outside of St.Ignatius smoke can be seen rising from an unattended burn pile. The CSKT NRD Air Quality Program has approached the Amish owned business about the nuisance smoke. CSKT Air Quality Program faced problems with the Amish communities in previous encounters. Their records show that CSKT approached them several times before on issues related to burning. (Courtesy photo of CSKT Air Quality Program) From Foothills Road outside of St.Ignatius smoke can be seen rising from an unattended burn pile. The CSKT NRD Air Quality Program has approached the Amish owned business about the nuisance smoke. CSKT Air Quality Program faced problems with the Amish communities in previous encounters. Their records show that CSKT approached them several times before on issues related to burning. (Courtesy photo of CSKT Air Quality Program)

CSKT NRD held a meeting to determine future action. NRD agreed to handle the air quality issue with the Amish, instead of going through another entity. Ashley says, “We did inform the business owner that he could take his discarded wood up to the Lake County Solid Waste Dump in Polson, but we feel that the matter is a tribal issue.” The Flathead Indian Reservation received a ‘Class 1 Air Shed’ in 1980, the highest clean air rating possible, under the Clean Air Act (1970), and has kept that status since. The recent smoke from the fires created by the Foothills Lumber and Post could cause a hazard to the class 1 status. “Based on our sovereignty, the Clean Air Act, and the ‘Treatment in the Same Manner as a State’ (TAS), we feel it is in the tribe’s jurisdiction,” says Ashley. The TAS states, “Several federal environmental laws authorize EPA to treat eligible federally-recognized Indian tribe in the same manner as a state for implementing and managing certain environmental programs.”

(Courtesy photo of CSKT Air Quality Program)(Courtesy photo of CSKT Air Quality Program)

Currently, CSKT’s back is against the wall. The Air Quality Program has made an effort to stop the burning, but since the Amish owner holds a required ten-day burning permit, future action is limited. Ron Swaney, CSKT Division of Fire, is working on redrafting a new burning permit. An added clause to the conditions and regulations will state, “Fires must be completely extinguished if any emission is detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare of any person; if it causes damage to property or business; or if it causes a nuisance to others.” If the new burning ordinance is approved, the Environmental Protection Agency will back CSKT, which will allow for federal marshals to be called in if ordinances are not met. Ashley says, “It’s a shame that we have to add more regulations. Our goal is not to limit people, but because of a few bad players, we have to increase restrictions.”

If you have a concern with air quality on the Flathead Indian Reservation or would like to voice a complaint concerning smoke related issues please call Mr. Randy Ashley, Air Quality Program Manager at (406) 675-2700, ext. 7213. You can also email Mr. Ashley at randya@cskt.org.

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