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More than 80 Tribal Schools in Arizona, Navajo Nation to improve environmental management

Release Date: 08/23/2011
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EPA Announces Settlement with the Department of the Interior to Resolve Violations at 164 DOI Schools in Indian Country, benefitting more than 40,000 students nationwide

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a comprehensive settlement with the Department of the Interior to address alleged violations of waste, water, air, toxics and community right-to-know laws at schools and public water systems in Indian Country owned or operated by DOI’s Indian Affairs Office. Fifty-five tribal schools in Arizona and thirty-one New Mexico-Navajo territory are impacted. The settlement will protect student’s health and the health of communities in Indian Country by reducing potential exposure to environmental hazards.

“Children are more vulnerable to environmental exposures than adults, which is why ensuring that schools provide safe, healthy learning environments for our children, particularly in tribal communities, is a top priority for EPA,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s landmark settlement will help strengthen public health and environmental protection in Indian Country and will improve environmental management practices at federally managed tribal schools.”

"The Federal government has a trust responsibility to protect human health and the environment in Indian Country,” said Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for EPA’s Pacific Southwest office. “We are pleased that the Department of Interior is taking steps to ensure that native children growing up in small communities on the Navajo and other reservations benefit from the same healthy educational environment as all other Americans.”

The settlement will correct all of DOI’s alleged violations at 72 schools and 27 water systems nationally. DOI will implement an environmental compliance auditing program and an environmental management system (EMS), designed to improve environmental practices at all of its Indian Country schools and public water systems serving these schools. DOI has also agreed to install a solar energy system which will serve a school located in the Grand Canyon. The solar energy project will help ensure a more reliable source of electricity for the school and local community. DOI will also pay a civil penalty of $234,844 which it must spend to correct violations of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) at its schools.

EPA conducted compliance inspections and data reviews at more than 100 DOI schools and public water systems. The settlement addresses all alleged violations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act’s PCB provisions, and AHERA.

The settlement affects 60 tribes throughout the U.S. which have DOI Office of Indian Affairs schools or public water systems on or near their tribal lands. Consistent with EPA’s consultation process with tribes, EPA consulted with the 60 tribes affected prior to finalization of the settlement agreement.

More information on the settlement: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/federal/bia-settlement.html