Keweenaw Bay Indian community receives $75,000 grant from Environmental Protection Agency

PEQUAMING, Mich. (WLUC) — Pollution and contamination are two important terms on the minds of members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Department of Natural Resources.

“Often we don’t see these effects immediately,” said BDNI director Evelyn Ravindran. “Or, they’re not very obvious because they might be invisible.”

Now the department has begun a health risk assessment… with financial assistance. This week, the Environmental Protection Agency awarded a $75,000 grant to help the department research environmental contaminants in air and water. Some contaminants include chemicals from plants and buffer sands.

“They are affecting fish spawning grounds and whitefish which is important to us,” said Department air quality specialist Jane Kahkonen. “There are also respiratory diseases that cause heart problems and diabetes.”

Kahkonen says one of the reasons this investment in toxic risk assessment is vital to the tribal community is tribal sovereignty and sustainability.

“We want to watch over the next seven generations,” Kahkonen said. “We want to preserve the way things are and the way they have been for the future.”

One of the goals of the project is to educate the community about the causes of high exposure levels. This also takes into account the tribe’s heavy reliance on fish, game, and plant life.

“Rural communities, in general, are largely affected,” Ravindran said. “Especially in this area where fishing is a big concern for the whole community.”

The ministry is looking to get the final contracts for the project completed by next month.

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