In October 2005 the Hazardous Environmental Response Team (HERT) was established to fill an un-met need for Tribal response to petroleum and hazardous material spills impacting Reservation rivers, groundwater, and soil. The HERT was initiated as a result of the obvious need for response to spills that are deemed insignificant for activation of Idaho’s Region II Hazmat Team, but are of importance to Tribal interests. The team was fielded in 2006 to protect endangered salmon and steelhead waters from hazardous materials spills.
The potential hazards imposed by heavy commercial traffic justify the NPT’s need to quickly and effectively respond to hazmat spills on the Reservation, especially since the Region II Hazmat Team’s response time to Lapwai is thirty minutes and two hours for Kamiah. The primary highway (hwy) system through the Nez Perce Reservation consists of Hwy 12 and Hwy 95 and accounts for 122 highway miles. Many of these miles wind along the Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers and are well traveled by interstate transporters. There are 168 miles of secondary hwy frequented by agricultural chemical and fertilizer transporters and 103.5 railroad miles located within Reservation boundaries.
In addition, 20 EPA registered Underground Storage Tank facilities are located on the Nez Perce Reservation. Also, there are at least 3 Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure regulated petroleum tank farms and many above ground storage tanks at residential and industrial sites. Multiple chemical fertilizer plants and aerial applicator mixing/loading facilities associated with local agriculture are present on the Reservation. Furthermore, three saw mills and many auto/truck wrecking and recycling facilities are located on or near rivers and their tributaries within the Nez Perce Reservation.
The HERT will respond to spills as they arise on the Reservation or within the usual and accustomed places of the Ni-mii-puu. Response activities will address the short-term, direct effects of an incident, e.g. immediate actions to save lives, protect property, and meet basic human needs.