The administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa P. Jackson, made a visit to Arizona on January 7 to present a $200,000 grant to the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona to fund childhood lead poisoning prevention campaigns for 20 Indian tribes in Arizona. While she was in the Valley, Jackson toured the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s new Two Waters complex and other locations in the Community.
The visit was arranged when the Community’s Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Department (EPNR) heard from the EPA’s Region 9 office that new EPA Region 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld and possibly EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson would be coming out to Arizona for a visit to hear the state’s, county’s and tribes’ concerns regarding environmental issues. This gave EPNR an opportunity to invite Administrator Jackson to visit the Community for a tour of the projects that EPNR has been working on. Jackson happily accepted the Community’s invitation over 20-plus other invitations.
EPNR staff took Jackson and her staff on a tour around the Community, visiting various environmental sites. The first stop was the air-monitoring site at the Senior Center, where EPNR staff recently established a flag system to alert people in the Community to the status of the air quality each day.
The second stop on the tour was Riverside Ruins, the nesting area for two American bald eagles. Jackson and her staff were amazed to see the birds so close to the city; they even stopped and took pictures.
The third location was the Cottonwood Wetland, where they took a walking tour of the grounds. EPNR staff educated Jackson about the native plants and explained how the wetland was built.
The final sites visited were the Cypress Landfill Brownfield site, the Salt River Landfill and the landfill gas-to-energy plant, which was a drive-by visit.
Jackson was amazed by the Community’s environmental accomplishments.
“There were a number of them [accomplishments], big and little,” said Jackson.
“On the large side was the operation of the solid waste and recycling landfill; it was well operated, and I thought it was quite impressive that it had full recycling capability. Also the wetlands visit; it was literally an oasis in the middle of the Community and [I enjoyed] seeing the cultural connection.”
The little things that impressed Jackson were the flag system for air quality and the bald eagles; she was amazed to see a nest so close to a road and industrial development.
As Jackson took the tour, she was informed about the Community’s biggest environmental challenge: air quality.
“If you don’t have clean air to breathe, then you can’t live. Clean air and clean water are the two most important things we need to survive,” said Jackson. “Our job at the EPA is to improve air quality all across the country.”
In addition to the partnership between tribes and the EPA to strive for better air and water quality, the EPA will seek input on tribal environmental issues. And it will continue to award grants, such as the grant that helped the Community establish the wetland and the funding for the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
“EPNR is carrying on the legacy of the indigenous people who were the real first protectors of the land,” explained Jackson. “We at EPA try our best to learn from the indigenous people. Keep in mind that your EPNR staff needs the Community’s help to take care of your land. Make sure you remain fierce protectors of your land, and fight for the cleanest air, water and land. If the people in the Community also fight for it, that helps EPNR do its job.”