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EPA awards $50,000 to Tohono O'odham Nation to address illegal dumping along border

Release Date: 3/3/2004
Contact Information: Wendy L. Chavez, (415) 947-4248

SAN FRANCISCO -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Wayne Nastri today toured the Tohono O'odham Nation and gave the tribe a $50,000 grant to address increased illegal dumping along the border.

Federal law enforcement authorities estimate that approximately 1,500 undocumented migrants cross the reservation every day, leaving behind more than six tons of solid waste on their land daily. The Tohono O'odham Nation share more than 75 miles of shared border with Mexico, the largest international border of any tribe in the U.S.

The Tohono O'odham Nation has identified two major migrant campsites that are littered with discarded items, such as water bottles, backpacks and blankets. As part of the 9-month pilot project, the grant will fund the cleanup of these two areas. The tribe will then determine if the waste can be recycled or sold, and if a sustainable program can be created that will cover costs for future cleanups.

"Funding tribal programs is a high priority for the EPA. We have a responsibility to help tribes protect and restore their natural resources, the environment and public health," said Nastri. "We need to do more, and this grant is an important step in helping the Tohono O'odham enjoy a landscape that is clear of waste."

Regional Administrator Wayne Nastri also toured the Cyprus Tohono mine, an inactive copper mine, where contamination threatened nearby drinking water wells. New water lines were recently constructed and the community now has a source for clean water.

Nastri also made a stop at one of the many successful open dump cleanups. Currently, the tribe has funding to close 62 of 113 open dump sites on the tribe's land, of which 14 have successfully been closed.

The EPA's regional office is currently working with over 130 tribes in Arizona, California and Nevada to build tribal environmental programs. Last year, the agency worked with tribes to improve drinking water for over 13,000 tribal homes, and to close 30 open dumps.

Nearly half of all tribes in the United States lack a solid waste management program. The EPA estimates that over 7 percent of all tribal members living on reservations in the U.S. lack running water, compared with less than half of one percent of the United States population as a whole. Over 1,100 open dumps are found on U.S. reservations.

For more information on the EPA's tribal programs, visit,