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Seneca Nation of Indians Puts Village of Portville on Notice for Violating Terms of Clean Water Act

Posted in: News & Announcements

ALLEGANY/CATTARAUGUS TERRITORIES, N.Y. – The Seneca Nation has notified the Village of Portville, New York of its intent to take legal action following the Village’s failure to abate persistent discharges of pollutants that are negatively impacting the Ohi:yo’ (Allegheny River), which runs through the Nation’s Allegany Territory.

The Nation sent a notice of intent to initiate civil action against the Village pursuant to Section 301 of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1311(a) for discharging solids and fecal coliform, among other things, in excess of the legal limits on a regular and continuing basis from January 2015 through April 6, 2021.

As Keepers of the Western Door and historic stewards of the environment, the Nation has been both greatly dismayed and significantly harmed by Portville’s flagrant disregard for both the letter of the law and the health and wellbeing of its downstream neighbors.

“Clean, safe water is a basic human right,” said Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels. “The Seneca people have a longstanding tradition of fishing, hunting, gathering, swimming, or simply relaxing in and around the Ohi:yo’. Polluting the waters that pass through our land is nothing short of an insult to our Nation and something for which we will not stand. Ohi:yo’ in Seneca means ‘beautiful’ or ‘good’ and we intend to make sure that description is accurate.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the excessive discharges from the Village of Portville Water Treatment Plant into Dodge Creek, a tributary of the Ohi:yo’, have violated the terms of its state discharge permit for more than five years. The Seneca Nation intends to sue for all Clean Water Act violations and is seeking civil penalties for any additional violations discovered in the future – including during the course of litigation - as well as any that might occur subsequent to this notice.

In addition, the Nation will seek an injunction in an effort to halt the continued illegal discharges, as well as costs, attorney and expert witness fees, and any other additional relief that the court might determine to be appropriate.

“Due to the persistent nature of these violations, it is likely ongoing violations will occur if no legal action is taken,” said Pagels. “To date, neither the state nor federal governments has taken action to right this egregious wrong.”

“As such, the Seneca Nation has taken matters into its own hands and is doubling down on its efforts to protect and restore its waterways for generations to come,” the President continued. “Other communities both up and downstream of our Territories should take heed. The Nation plans to use every tool at its disposal to safeguard this precious resource; our very lives depend on it.”