EPA: we cleaned up the toxics. Pomos: you disturbed our history.

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CLEARLAKE OAKS, Calif. -- For decades, young members of the Elem Pomo tribe have broken out in skin rashes and elders have suffered kidney failure.

The Elem Pomos' 50-acre reservation [in Lake County, north of San Francisco] is adjacent to the Sulphur Bank Mine, one of the nation's most polluted sites, and some Pomos believe the tribe's health problems may be related to the federal government's use of the mine's toxic tailings to build reservation roads and house foundation pads 37 years ago.

Last year, after more than a decade of regulatory delays, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleaned the contaminated soil and rock from the reservation and stabilized the mine site.

Yet many of the tribe's 300-plus members are dissatisfied with the $20 million cleanup project, saying the EPA's excavations may have damaged archaeological sites in violation of the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act.

The cleanup removed thousands of cubic yards of toxic waste, improved roads and water systems, provided five new homes and significantly reduced pollution from the mine site. But tribe members say the EPA ignored their demands to modify the work plan, exacerbating the archaeological damage.

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