A total of 86 tribal schools—55 in Arizona and 31 in New Mexico—will benefit from a comprehensive settlement announced August 23 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The settlement with the Department of the Interior (DOI) addresses “alleged violations of waste, water, air, toxics and community right-to-know laws,” states a press release.
“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, in the release. “[This] 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 Interior has been instructed to implement an environmental compliance auditing program as well as an environmental management system, which is designed to improve environmental practices at all DOI schools in Indian country and public water systems serving those schools.
On top of this, DOI will install a solar energy system at a school in the Grand Canyon and pay $234,844 to correct violations of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act at Interior run 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, in the release. “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.”
This settlement affects 60 United States tribes, all of which were consulted by the EPA before the settlement was finalized.
To read the full press release click here.
The full settlement is available on the EPA website.