BARAGA, Mich. (WJMN) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced this week, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) has been awarded $75,000 under the Environmental Justice Small Grants program.

The grant will be used to provide support to identify legacy and current environmental pollutants in the community. In addition, an environmental risk assessment will be conducted and allow the funding of materials to distribute project findings. 

“EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants program helps tribal nations to better understand possible health risks from environmental contamination,” said EPA Regional Administrator Debra Shore. “This funding supports these communities in taking action to ensure that people are protected from environmental risks and potential health hazards.”

The EPA says environmental pollution that harms water quality can pose higher risks to tribal nations like the KBIC, who harvest significant amounts of native fish species to feed their families and use during ceremonies and other cultural practices.

The EPA notes that the area around the KBIC L’Anse reservation is currently subjected to multiple stressors from industrial facilities, including a mixed-fuel power plant, and historical legacy pollutants. Legacy pollution from past copper mining operations have left contaminated byproducts that include heavy metals such as mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, phthalates, coal tars, nitrates, and ammonia compounds.

The awarded grant will help facilitate the community’s ability to study the impacts created by these factors and educate community members on possible exposures and risks from pollution. The information learned during the project could help develop future community guidelines, recommendations, research studies, and program planning.

“This EPA EJ funding opportunity will assist KBIC with the completion of a health risk assessment focusing on environmental contaminants,” said KBIC President Kim Klopstein. “This study will analyze the impacts of risk values set for the general population that are not reflective of our tribal lifeways and those members who rely on the environment to hunt, fish, and gather.”

You can learn more about the grant program here and see a full list of recipients here.