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EPA Funding Will Help Maine Tribes To Assess Pollution Exposure

Release Date: 02/24/04
Contact Information: Contact: David Deegan, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1017

For Immediate Release: February 24, 2004; Release # 04-02-17

BOSTON - EPA New England today announced approval of a cooperative agreement for $110,000 to help federally-recognized tribes in Maine better understand pollution exposure they face in using waters in their territories consistent with their historic and cultural practices.

The funding will be used on behalf of the five federally-recognized tribal governments in Maine to develop a more detailed and accurate assessment of cultural and traditional Native American usage patterns – subsistence lifestyles, for example – that may expose tribal members to pollution at higher levels than the general population. The grant was awarded to the Aroostook Band of Micmacs which, in turn, will oversee the project in close coordination with the other tribal governments in Maine and with EPA.

"This grant will improve our understanding of the health risks that tribal members face based on their unique cultural and dietary habits, including higher-than-average fish consumption, living on their tribal lands and waters," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office.

The study will include interviewing tribal elders to determine recent natural resource utilization patterns among all the tribes, as well as anthropological research to determine historical natural resource utilization practices. Each of the Maine tribes is dedicated to restoring and maintaining ancient tribal cultural practices, including active cultural development programs focused on tribal youth.

The project will include the hiring of a tribal risk assessment expert who will develop information and analysis that can be used by EPA in reviewing water quality standards for tribal waters. A water quality standard is a set of requirements under the Clean Water Act outlining specific goals for using particular water bodies (such as swimming, healthy fish and wildlife habitat) and defining how clean a water body must be so that the waters can be used for those specific goals. The assessments will include freshwater and marine water exposures associated with tribal cultural practices.

EPA's funding for these grants comes several weeks after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded nearly $14 million to dozens of tribes across the country, including more than $750,000 in wildlife conservation funds to four tribes in Maine. The grants are part of two new federal programs aimed to help tribes restore endangered species on their lands and to manage wildlife resources. EPA New England has issued approximately $4 million to New England tribes for environmental protection in the last year.

Related Information:
New England Tribes
Clean Water Act
Endangered Species
Fish Consumption