In 2000, NELC filed suit under the Clean Air Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act against the U.S. Department of the Army to put an end to its practice of open burning and open detonation (OB/OD) disposal of unwanted munitions, rocket motors, and other explosives at the Sierra Army Depot in Herlong, CA. The Depot was California’s largest stationary source of air pollution, driven largely by its OB/OD practices. Soil samples near burning and detonation pits contained dangerous levels of copper, lead, and zinc. Studies also confirmed that Pyramid Lake — located downwind on the Lake Paiute Tribal Reservation and the last remaining habitat of the endangered Cui-ui fish — was at risk of contamination from toxic metals released from the Depot.
Following a two-year legal battle, NELC reached a settlement with the Army requiring it to permanently cease its OB/OD operations, except in situations when no means of safe disposal is available. Since the Army’s own witnesses admitted that all items it subjected to OB/OD disposal could be disposed of by safer means, our settlement significantly boosted environmental protection in the Sierra Nevada region.