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Native Sun News: Landowners hit for pollution at Bear Butte

Filed Under: Environment | Law | National
More on: bear butte, crime, native sun news, sacred sites, south dakota
     

The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun News Managing Editor. All content © Native Sun News.


Bear Butte. This is one of 13 photos that Thomas Gamage provided to Native Sun News that he says show the pits that he dug under the direction of Sean Clark.

Bear Butte polluters indicted
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Managing Editor

RAPID CITY—Late last week Sean Clark and Devorah Lopez, owners of the Glencoe Camp Resort located just south of the sacred site Bear Butte near Sturgis were indicted by a federal grand jury for the “discharge of a pollutant from a source point into a water of the United States.”

The alleged crime that poisoned and dammed up Bear Butte Creek however is not the only criminal act of pollution that the couple has committed according to Thomas Gamage a former employee of the Glencoe Camp resort.

In a series of two interviews that Gamage gave with Native Sun News he described how he along with several other workers under the direction of Sean Clark; created, filled with trash and toxins, ten 60 ft. by 30 ft. trenches that they then covered with dirt within walking distance of Bear Butte. All of the pits were located on the Glencoe property that sits a little more than two miles south of Bear Butte.

“I took a crane and front end loader and dug a ledge in to the ground. (Price) then brought in tractors and trailers and was dumping oil drums, except it wasn’t oil that was in them I think it was transmission residue,” he said.

Gamage said that after the oil drums were dropped in to the pits, trash was put on top them and then the pits were covered with dirt.

Gamage provided multiple photos to Native Sun News and LastRealIndians.com that he says show the trenches, what he filled them with, and their proximity of the pits to the sacred site of Bear Butte.

For tribes in the Northern Plains Bear Butte is one of the most spiritually significant sites in the entire world. For many tribes including the Lakota and the Northern Cheyenne, as well as others the site is the only place where certain ceremonies can take place and is also a place where sacred knowledge was given to the people.

“He does a lot of crooked stuff on that property,” said Gamage.

According to Gamage, Sean Price, allegedly made it a habit of hiring felons or those with a history of criminal activity in an attempt to control what information left the campground as well as to exert control over the workers who needed employment. Gamage also claims that Price fired him after he voiced concern over the pits and the practice of dumping the trash and oil drums in to the ground.

“He fired me because of this,” said Gamage. “He fired all of my guys from Rapid City that were friends with me and stuff… (Price) took their money and then charged them for meals. I had 115 hours on the clock and my paycheck ended up being $11.” Gamage would also admit that he has spent a significant number of years in the South Dakota prison system and that he has been working with the Meade County Sheriff’s department on what he has seen take place at Glencoe. When asked about his reasoning for exposing the acts Gamage said that it in part had to do with his dislike for Price and what was happening to the land.

“He doesn’t deserve to own property out there. If you can afford an $11.5 million resort and 1,200 acres you can pay to have your trash picked up like all the other campground owners. None of them are doing what he is doing.”

Clark, 47, and Lopez, 50, both of Hacienda Heights, Calif., were indicted by a federal grand jury in mid-July for “discharge of a pollutant from a point source into a water of the United States,” Johnson stated in a prepared release.

The two California residents who own the Glencoe Camp Resort II in the shadow of Bear Butte have been indicted by a federal grand jury, U.S. Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced.

The indictment alleges that in 2011 and 2012 the defendants discharged fill material into Bear Butte Creek. They appeared on Aug. 12 before U.S. Magistrate Veronica L. Duffy and entered not guilty pleas to the indictment. Clark and Lopez were released on bond pending trial, which was set for Oct. 15.

The maximum penalty upon conviction is three years in prison, not less than $5,000 nor more than $50,000 fine per day of violation, or both; one year of supervised release, an additional year of supervised release upon revocation; and a mandatory $100 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.

Restitution also may be ordered, Johnson said.

The investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan N. Dilges is prosecuting the case, according to the release.

Neither Clark nor Lopez returned calls to Native Sun News.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at staffwriter2@nsweekly.com)

Copyright permission by Native Sun News


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