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MT State and Tribal environmental leaders recognized by EPA

Release Date: 7/27/2001
Contact Information:
800 227-8917 x6331,

Release Date: 7/27/2001
Contact Information:
800 227-8917 x6314,

Release Date: 7/27/2001
Contact Information:
800 227-8917 x7814

      Denver -- Designing an innovative and highly effective public outreach tool during raging wildfires and gathering evidence against a septic pumper dumping raw sewage into tribal waters are among Montanans' achievements recently recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

      Agency officials will present the awards in person at yet-to-be-determined events. Achievement awards went to:

      John Coefield, a meteorologist and modeler with Montana Department of Environmental Quality's Planning, Prevention and Assistance Program, developed a public information website on air quality impacts for the historic 2000 wildfire season, where more than 6.5 million acres burned nationwide. Some of the worst fires were in Montana. Public announcements were updated daily throughout the summer season, with useful information on forecasting and monitoring results. The website also included an adaptation of EPA's Air Quality Index for the public so individuals could make short-term health predictions and assess the fire smoke's impact on them. The assessment would be followed by cautionary statements to sensitive populations and the general public, such as advisories to limit exercise or remain indoors.

      The website resulted from effective partnering with local governments and other agencies to raise environmental awareness. John's initiative, creativity and diligence in continuous updates to the web -- and his talent for leveraging communications opportunities through partnership -- greatly supported public health protection efforts. This project is a superior model for other state, tribal or local offices, and the federal government to use when wildfires threaten air quality.

      Bruce Bauer, Shelly Kirn and Sandra Blount-White Eagle, of the Ft. Peck Reservation, for their professionalism and persistence in pursuing, documenting and reporting egregious violations of the Clean Water Act. Bruce witnessed a septic pumper truck illegally dumping raw sewage into a coulee on rural ranchland. He questioned the dumper, photographed the scene, documented the encounter and referred the action to the Tribe's Environmental Protection Department. Days later, Bruce spotted the same pumper at Wolf Point and, alarmed at the prospect of more illegal dumping, alerted a sheriff's deputy and followed the truck, again documenting the violation.

      Armed with this information, Shelly Kirn and Sandra Blount-White Eagle from the Tribe's Environmental Protection Department went to the dumpsite twice to document how the raw sewage ran into tribal waters. They photographed the site, sampled the pollutants, drafted affidavits and submitted the information in a bound investigation report to EPA. The report was so thorough EPA had no need to gather more evidence, and it is being used as evidence in the pending enforcement action against the pumper. The voluntary actions of Bruce, Shelly and Sandra exemplify the kind of model partnership EPA seeks to cultivate -- for the benefit of the Tribe, the Agency and the environment we all seek to protect.

      The Montanans were among 65 groups and/or individuals EPA recognized its six-state region that includes CO, MT, ND, SD, UT and WY.

      "These individuals represent the kind of environmental commitment and partnership EPA recognizes as crucial to protecting our land, water and air," Jack McGraw, EPA's Acting Regional Administrator in Denver said.

      Editors: For details on an awardee, please contact his/her nominator:

      John Coefield Cindy Rosenberg 800 227-8917 x6436
      Bruce Bauer, Shelly Kirn Gwen Jacobs 406 441-1140 x235
      and Sandra Blount-White Eagle