Wiidookodaadiyang Giniigaanayi'iiminaaning - “Working Together for our Future”
Transfer Station and Four New Landfills to Open Soon
Red Lake has received a grant and loan to build a transfer station and four brand new landfills, one for each community, said Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr., in a recent address to the people.
“New solid waste construction sites will be constructed in all districts this year. This will be a major improvement to our waste management capabilities," said Jourdain.
This project will also create several additional jobs.
As part of grant funding received from USDA Rural development, MN DOT, U.S Dept of Energy, and the federal highway administration, the Red Lake solid waste management team has purchased new garbage trucks for the transfer/solid waste program. In addition there will be a multi-million dollar solid waste recycling facility at Red Lake.
Gilbert “Gil” Lussier, Solid Waste/Transfer Station Director, was it’s first employee, beginning work back in 1995. During a recent interview, one could hear the excitement in Lussier’s voice as he described all that was going on at Red Lake in the area of waste management.
In his own words, Lussier is “kind of addicted to this business in a way," he likes the work and he’s been advocating for better policies for a long time. He said [he] is very pleased with the direction the tribal council is going with this issue.
“Before this new initiative," said Lussier, "we had nothing but dumps. Here, (at the Red Lake site) we will have hazardous waste disposal, and household waste e.g. appliances, tires, batteries, etc., which will be picked up and shipped to other facilities daily.”
Lussier talked about what he called the first phase of what waste management is going through. Each community will have rear load containers, fences will deter bears and dogs, and there will be prescribed times to use waste sites. “We have a highly trained and versatile team,” stated Lussier. “This group of workers can do each other’s jobs if necessary."
“This (Red Lake) will be the first site to open," Lussier said. “One is now being prepped in Ponemah. Little Rock is done but not open. We will wait for Red Lake to be completed and open both at the same time.”
“Right now we have dumpsters out there that handle six cubic yards of waste. New dumpsters will handle twice as much at 12 cubic yards," explained Lussier. “There will be ten at each site in all four communities.”
A new large structure nearly completed, is the Tipping Building. Garbage trucks will pick up bins, dump them into the trucks where the garbage is compacted, and then travel to the new tipping building. The truck dumps their load in the building, where a large machine compacts the garbage and deposits the outcome into a 20 ton transfer trailer. From here the waste goes on to Hallock, the home of the Marshall/Kttson County Landfill.
The other new large structure on the premises, between the tipping building and the office building, is for truck storage and maintenance. Contained within, is an insulated shop, ample space for truck storage, and one stall for maintenance. Always keeping an eye for the safety of workers, the facility has a shower and place to wash clothes if a person were to be contaminated.
Second Phase: Construction recycling.
“Soon we’ll have a dual-line sorting system," noted Lussier, “which will employ ten people full time.” Lussier explained that the sorting system will cut the cost of shipping or transporting, and although the system is tribally run and owned, eventually all will be turned back to the community. “Expectantly then, this will instill some community pride and innovation, as the members will actually own it. And with that – hopefully - it all will generate an environmental ethic."
Lussier noted that it’s not just government that is advocating for these changes, that change is coming from the communities. “Boundaries have separated us for too long, and there is a competition for resources," he said. “We must have unity."
Lussier said the second phase will also include a hazardous waste facility. “More explosives will be coming in, but we’ll be explosion proof”, he said.
3rd Phase: Construction/demolition landfill.
But “solid waste” isn’t stopping [there]. Soon, when members come in with construction and demolition materials for the landfill, they will drive onto a scale and weighed. Lussier says it will be revenue making, as depositors will pay a certain price per cubic yard for the fill. The landfill will be vinyl lined to protect from leeching, then will go to a holding pond, and later shipped to Bemidji. Lussier noted that the area will also serve as a wildlife habitat. Overall, this 2 million dollar project will create three new jobs.
Long Term: Into the Future.
“Solid waste can and will produce methane”, says Lussier. Red Lake plans to act as a regional site for our area. “We could handle 100,000 tons per year at a site that would be located on ceded lands near Grygla. The Grygla community may have questions about this plan, but we will provide a ‘political incentive’. The Grygla community would be provided free electricity pumped right into homes form the site.”
Lussier says that he believes this innovative environmental plan will add to the pride of the Red Lake people, “by playing on the ecological values and culture of our ancestors.” The extra electricity generated would be pumped right into Beltrami Electric lines, who will have to pay for it, and thereby creating extra revenue for Red Lake Nation.
“It could be a big money maker," he said.
Lussier pointed out that such things are being done by other Tribal Nations, “so we know it can work." At the Salt River Landfill, an enterprise of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the Akimel O'odham (Pima) people, methane electricity is a bigger money maker for them than gaming. Scottsdale Arizona is acting as the host community.
The citizens of Scottsdale, as well as the City of Mesa and the town of Gilbert, pay a mere $20 per month utility bill for being the host community. “This is going to be a big and 'up and coming’ thing in the area of what to do with what household waste creates," Lussier asserted.
“We’re excited," said Lussier. "This is the coming of a new era. We are a strong people when it comes to the environment. We got together with the DNR, sanitation and put our heads together. We want to reclaim what is part of our heritage. We’ve forgotten who we are, it’s in us, but we’ve forgotten, we need to rediscover our culture, a respect for the land, and of course we need to clean up the Reservation.”
“I would like to join our transfer station Director Gilbert Lussier in issuing a challenge to all band members," said Jourdain in his State of the Band message. ”Let’s respect our Earth Mother - and ourselves - by taking pride in our reservation. Let’s keep our tribal lands clean. If we all pitch in we can do it.”