Native Americans brace for impact as EPA undergoes changes

Hugo, Kristen. 2017. Native Americans brace for impact as EPA undergoes changes.
Year Published

The water in Owens Valley, California — between the Sierra and Death Valley national parks — is usually clean. So, in 1998, Alan Bacock was surprised when results of a routine test of well water on the Big Pine Paiute Reservation came back with a red flag: The tribe’s groundwater was dangerously contaminated with a cancer-causing chemical called Perchloroethylene (PCE).
The tribe turned to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Through a General Assistance Program (GAP) grant, which funded an investigation into the pollution source, they were able to identify the source of the pollution–a bathroom fixtures manufacturer — and find an alternative drinking water source. They launched a public awareness campaign, which helped prevent locals from getting sick.
Without the GAP grant, they wouldn’t have been able to afford the investigation or secure clean water for their community. When the manufacturer continued to improperly dump hazardous waste into the groundwater supply, the Tribal Council and the Bureau of Indian Affairs removed the business from the reservation.
The grant is just one example of the kind of resources and environmental protections Bacock and other tribal leaders fear are at risk under President Donald Trump.