The Makah Tribe has successfully lobbied the EPA to add its Warm House Beach dump to the Superfund National Priorities List.
After years of effort, the tribe closed the dump that was used by the U.S. Air Force beginning in the 1970s for dumping household, solid and hazardous waste.
After the closure of the air base in the 1980s, the tribe used the dump for its waste needs until it closed in 2012 when a transfer station opened on the reservation. The dump is located three miles northwest of Neah Bay on a ridge that drains into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
“The Makah Tribal Council really wants that dump material removed and cleaned up,” said Steve Pendleton, Makah environmental program manager. “Warm House Beach, which is directly below the dump area, is an important cultural site where we have harvested mussels, sea urchin and other seafoods.”
The beach is also a historic fishing camp.
The EPA has found elevated levels of perchlorate, lead, cadmium, manganese, copper and zinc in the soils of the dump and in the sediments in the creeks draining from the area. Mussels on the beaches also contain elevated concentrations of lead.
The tribe’s transfer station features a trash deposit area and a place to leave reusable items.
“Folks used to comb through the dump for items for their projects, so we created an area to leave gently used items that we keep orderly to continue that recycle-reuse idea,” Pendleton said.