Coeur d’Alene Press: Tribal Court Will Hear Sewage Dispute


The Coeur d'Alene Tribe is raising a stink over what it claims has been a pattern of improper sewage disposal on property near its headquarters on the North Idaho reservation.

Spokane-based septic pumping and repair company Gobers LLC has been “trucking untreated and untested sewage from Spokane-area domestic septic tanks and portable toilets” to privately-owned land, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported this morning.

The property—a large farm—is a mile north of Coeur d'Alene Tribal headquarters in Plummer. The Tribe said the business was “disposing raw sewage and human feces” on the property, but a Spokane attorney representing Gobers said no feces was spread on the ground. Attorney Gregg R. Smith said it was injected eight inches underground and was approved by the DEQ, the Panhandle Health District and the state.

“There never has been any sewage dumped on the land,” Smith told the Coeur d’Alene Press. He said the Tribe “irresponsibly” misstated the facts, added that the Tribe is likely upset because the "septage" (sewage sludge) comes from Spokane and the Tribe doesn't receive any economic benefit.

The Tribe says it has received numerous complaints from Indian and non-Indian community members because of the odor, sanitation and potential health risks.

The Tribe filed a complaint in Tribal Court to prevent more dumping, but Gobers sued in federal court challenging the Tribal Court’s jurisdiction. A U.S. District Court judge ruled on Thursday that the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Court does indeed have jurisdiction in the dispute.

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge stated that Gobers and the farm in question must go through the Tribal Court process before the matter is heard in federal court. Smith, meanwhile, said Gobers and the farm may appeal the ruling.