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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Anchorage, AK

08/08/2005
    EPA is pleased to have worked with our partners in protecting the health of Alaska Natives and the rich environment that has sustained them through the ages.

    We have learned from our partners in tribal governments, the state of Alaska and other federal agencies about the unique challenges in rural Alaska .

    And together we have come a long way in dealing with the need to improve sanitation and the delivery of safe drinking water. The number of households supplied with 21 st Century sanitation systems and drinking water treatment plans has risen steadily. In 1970 only 4% of communities were served by a piped system. In 2004, 77% of the homes in rural Alaska were served by a piped system.

    We also have a long way to go: there are still too many places where sewage lagoons leak into the ground water, lakes and rivers that are the source of drinking water.

    We must find ways to ensure that the new landfills, sanitary treatment systems and drinking water plants are properly operated and maintained through innovative programs.

    We appreciate that improving rural sanitation is also important to sustaining the traditional subsistence lifeways, because the pollutants in lagoons and dumps can contaminate the foods upon which so many depend.

    Finally, on a larger scale, we also recognize that the Arctic is affected by chemicals that have never been used here. As a result of atmospheric dispersion, potentially harmful chemicals are present in plants and animals Alaska Native and others depend on.

    These are the challenges we face. By working together, along with others who share our commitment to maintaining traditional lifeways and sustaining a high quality of life, I am confident of that we will be successful.

    I look forward to learning more from you about these issues.