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Alaska Tribe to Benefit From Nearly $300,000 Aimed at Reducing Exposure to Toxics

SEATTLE (Nov. 16, 2009) The people of Nelson Island and nearby coastal communities will be better able to protect themselves from toxic chemicals thanks to a nearly $300,000 Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Nunakauyarmuit Tribe was awarded the grant to help reduce possible exposure to harmful toxic substances in seven villages of the Nelson Island Consortium.

According to Marcia Combes, EPA's Director of Alaska Operations in Anchorage, the CARE Program is intended to empower communities to protect themselves against environmental dangers in their communities.

"These tribal communities have already made great progress in identifying risks from toxic chemicals," Combes said "With this additional funding, the people in these communities will be able to take their work even further by taking direct action to reduce possible risks, prevent exposures and build a healthier future."

The Nunakauyarmuit Tribe received an initial CARE grant in 2006. It was used to identify problems associated with exposure to harmful substances like heavy metals, lead, mercury and freon gas that are discarded in open dump sites and subsistence fishing and hunting camps. The Tribe learned that there is the potential for children in the village to be exposed to lead and other heavy metals which can cause neurological and developmental problems.

In a Cooperative Agreement, EPA will provide both funding and technical assistance for the project.

The work plan includes:

  • Recovering 80 percent of lead acid batteries and 50 percent of household batteries to reduce lead, mercury and cadmium exposures using community wide drop-off and collection programs
  • Reducing fluorescent light disposal by 80 percent through community outreach
  • Developing freon removal programs for all freezers and refrigerators
  • Developing the first lead sinker program in Alaska
  • Establishing sustainable partnerships for future Nelson Island Consortium projects
Nelson Island and the nearby coastal region are made up of rural tribal community villages that encompass both a watershed and traditional-shared land. The CARE Level II grant will serve over 2,600 people, 25 percent of whom live below the national poverty line.

Since 2005, EPA has provided communities having disproportionate environmental hazards 77 CARE grants nationwide. The common theme of CARE projects is to helping community groups build collaborative partnerships at the local level between residents, businesses, organizations and local and state governments to tackle toxic threats.

For additional information about EPA's CARE program, visit: http://www.epa.gov/care/

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