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Controlling Injection Wells on Tribal Lands - Where You Live

There are 35 recognized tribes in three of six Region 5 states—Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. We regulate any injection wells located on these Indian Lands. On this page you will find information on how we work with tribal nations to help them build their capacity through the UIC program to protect underground sources of drinking water from contamination by injection wells within reservation boundaries. The Federal government has trust responsibilities toward Native Americans and we recognize that tribal governments are the primary parties for environmental management on reservations.

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General Information

Injection Wells in Indian Country

Class V wells are located throughout virtually all Region 5 tribal lands. These are usually septic systems and drywells. The Exit from EPA pagesSaginaw Chippewa reservation in Michigan is the only reservation with Class II wells. There are no Class I or Class III wells located on tribal lands. See the Inventory of Underground Injection Wells for a more detailed acccount of known injection wells on tribal lands. Our ongoing effort is to develop and maintain an updated inventory of all injection wells in Indian Country.

Since disposal of certain fluids into some Class V systems could contaminate underground sources of drinking water, federal UIC regulations require that these systems be inventoried and evaluated. It is the responsibility of facility owners to provide the EPA with inventory information about any Class V wells.

Since many facility owners do not know about the UIC well inventory requirement, EPA staff and circuit riders have been searching business databases, meeting with tribal environmental staff, and conducting inspections to identify facilities with Class V wells on Indian lands. This information is then used to update the inventory of Class V wells located throughout Indian Country. This inventory is made available to the tribes upon request for drinking water and ground water protection efforts and other purposes.

Some Tribes have entered into Direct Implementation Tribal Cooperative Agreements (DITCAs) with EPA to develop an inventory of those facilities on their reservations that potentially have Class V wells. Facilities identified from these DITCAs are then inspected by EPA staff or circuit riders to verify the existence of any Class V wells.

Closing Motor Vehicle Waste Disposal Wells in Indian Country

We seek information on any potential motor vehicle waste disposal wells that may be located in Indian Country. Floor drains and shop sinks that could receive fluids from motor vehicle maintenance or service activities are not allowed to drain into drywells or septic systems for underground disposal, according to federal rule, and must be closed. Since these kinds of discharges are known to contaminate underground sources of drinking water, EPA is interested in seeing that these systems are closed as soon as possible. More information about the closure of these systems is available on the Motor Vehicle Waste Disposal Wells web page.

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Technical Assistance to Tribes

We provide technical assistance to tribes using circuit riders. These circuit riders can assist tribes with inventorying Class V wells on tribal lands. To request their assistance, please contact Eva-Marie Rowe.

UIC Tribal Cooperative Agreements

A DITCA (Direct Implementation Tribal Cooperative Agreement) is a legal tool that authorizes a Tribal Government to assist EPA in implementing federal programs in Indian Country. Instead of delegating a federal program to a Tribal Government, DITCAs allow tribal staff to act as agents or representatives of EPA, assisting the agency in performing certain tasks. Funding is placed into a DITCA to offset the costs to the Tribal Government, and appropriate training and instruction is provided to tribal staff.

Current DITCAs:

Completed DITCAs:

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Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe

You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader, available as a free download, to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more about PDF, and for a link to the free Acrobat Reader.

EPA Region 5, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Department of Natural Resources and Environment (Mille Lacs DNRE) established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together administering the UIC Program for the non-Indian owned portions of the Mille Lacs Reservation in Minnesota.

Memorandum of Understanding (PDF) (9pp, 20K) February 1998

Since the State and local governments do not recognize the existence of the reservation, the agreement is worded to apply to the Mille Lacs County Townships of Isle Harbor, Kathio and South Harbor, which comprise the reservation. This agreement is a compromise suggested by the Mille Lacs DNRE which avoids litigation which would have ensued had both the MPCA and the Mille Lacs DNRE sought primary enforcement authority (primacy), as they both had intended, for this non-Indian owned land on the Mille Lacs Reservation.

Under this agreement, the Mille Lacs DNRE will only seek primacy for Indian owned land on the reservation as well as trust and tribally owned land off of the reservation. The MPCA will not seek primacy for any of the reservation (the three townships). Region 5 will retain authority over non-Indian owned land on the reservation and the Mille Lacs DNRE and the MPCA will work together to assist EPA in carrying out this role. Final authority for all regulatory actions including permitting and enforcement will rest with EPA for this non-Indian owned land on the reservation.

The three parties to the MOU are now moving forward to implement this agreement by meeting with local officials and others to explain the MOU and its impact and develop an implementation plan. At the same time, the Mile Lacs DNRE and MPCA are proceeding with preparing their respective primacy applications.

More information about trust responsibility

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