Michigan tribe wins $75,000 grant to study effects of legacy mining waste and pollution
An indigenous Upper Peninsula tribe has received a $75,000 grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency to study the impacts of legacy mine wastes and other pollutants.
The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community recently obtained an Environmental Justice Grant to identify historical and current environmental pollutants in the community, conduct an environmental risk assessment, and create public notification documents of the findings. The Tribe’s L’Anse Reservation is Michigan’s oldest and largest reservation and the gateway to the Keweenaw Peninsula where there is a long history of copper mining and associated pollution.
KBIC Chairman Kim Klopstein said the EPA funding will help the tribe complete a health risk assessment focused on environmental contaminants.
“This study will analyze the impacts of risk values set for the general population that do not reflect our tribal lifestyles and members who depend on the environment to hunt, fish and gather,” Klopstein said in a written statement.
Federal authorities have said environmental pollution that harms water quality poses higher risks to tribal nations such as KBIC whose citizens consume significant amounts of fish, far more than the general population. Stamp sands are a well-documented pollutant in the Lake Superior watershed affecting the local tribal population.
Stamp sands are legacy mining wastes created when rocks were crushed during the historic copper mining process on the Keweenaw Peninsula. The tailings were piled along the shore of Lake Superior at Gay, and decades of lake currents caused the buffer sands to drift along the shore and smother much of the Buffalo Underwater Reef – fish spawning grounds. essential for the largest of the Great Lakes.
Buffer sands are loaded with heavy metals such as mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, phthalates, coal tars, nitrates and ammonia compounds.
The L’Anse et Baraga area is also home to current industrial facilities, such as a mixed power plant and several paint and industrial fabrication shops.
The data collected during the Environmental Justice Study may be used to develop future guidelines or recommendations for the community, or even lead to additional research efforts.
The EPA Environmental Justice Small Grants Program is designed to fund efforts that help residents of underserved communities, including people of color, low-income, rural, tribal, Indigenous, and homeless.
Other Michigan organizations that have received environmental justice grants include:
- Detroiters Work for EJ in Detroit and Highland Park to develop a Decarbonization Entrepreneur Accelerator Program to recruit, support and train local minority and women-owned businesses on issues of public health and environmental and climate justice
- We Want Green, Too, in Detroit to develop a leadership program to train Black residents, homeless people and veterans with post-traumatic distress syndrome on the East Side of Detroit.
- Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy in Bay City to install green infrastructure and work to prevent illegal dumping and educate the public on how to properly dispose of waste.
- Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision Project in Detroit to address diesel emissions at the Port of Detroit and the Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal to raise public awareness and address community concerns.
Army Corps Launches Great Lakes Coastal Resilience Study in 8 States
Beyond Lake Superior: Elevated PFAS found in Michigan’s rainbow smelt
Tribal knowledge could save Great Lakes ‘ghost species’ from extinction, book says
High-water and storm-driven pollution threaten whitefish habitat in Lake Superior
$3.9M Dredging Project to Protect Michigan’s Buffalo Reef Completed