Community Based Risk Assessment of Exposure to Contaminants via Water Sources on the Crow Reservation in Montana

EPA Grant Number: R833706
Title: Community Based Risk Assessment of Exposure to Contaminants via Water Sources on the Crow Reservation in Montana
Investigators: Ford, Timothy E.
Current Investigators: Ford, Timothy E. , Camper, Anne
Institution: University of New England - University Campus
Current Institution: University of New England - University Campus , Montana State University - Bozeman
EPA Project Officer: Klieforth, Barbara I
Project Period: June 1, 2009 through May 31, 2012 (Extended to May 31, 2014)
Project Amount: $329,532
RFA: Issues in Tribal Environmental Research and Health Promotion: Novel Approaches for Assessing and Managing Cumulative Risks and Impacts of Global Climate Change (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Justice , Climate Change , Tribal Environmental Health Research , Human Health


This proposal describes a community based participatory research project that involves the University of New England (UNE), Montana State University (MSU), the Crow Tribe and Little Big Horn College in developing risk assessment methodology for multimedia exposure to contaminants in water and wastewater. When Ford first submitted this grant proposal, he was Professor and Department Head of Microbiology at MSU. From June 1, 2008, his position has changed to Vice President for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies at UNE. This project is therefore being transferred to UNE, with a subcontract to MSU, in order for Ford to effectively manage the grant. He will continue to directly communicate with personnel at MSU, the tribal college and community, and closely control implementation of field data collection. He retains an affiliate faculty appointment at MSU and is being allowed to maintain his MSU laboratory under the management of Sue Broadaway, and direct on-site supervision by Professor Anne Camper, who is replacing Ford as director of the environmental health focus of the NIH-funded Montana INBRE program. There are no anticipated changes to the original research plan and quality assurance statement.


1) Establish a sampling and analysis program to assess contaminant loadings to water and to aquatic/wetland subsistence foods; 2) Evaluate lifestyle and cultural practices that contribute to exposure risk from water sources; 3) Supplement the current LifeLine Tribal™ software to include water contamination and exposure factors specific to Reservation settings; and 4) Design and support culturally appropriate risk communication and risk management measures that minimize impact on subsistence and other traditional practices, and which may be transferable to other Tribes. This research will test the hypotheses that, 1) Contamination is not adequately monitored and water resources on the Reservation are more contaminated than in similar rural, non-Native communities; 2) Subsistence lifestyles and cultural practices of Crow Reservation communities place them at increased risk of exposure to environmental contaminants; 3) The LifeLine Tribal™ software will more accurately assess risks if it includes exposure to water contaminants; 4) A CBPR approach to understanding exposure pathways will contribute to developing culturally appropriate mitigation strategies; and 5) Including the local Tribal College in risk assessment and management will substantially strengthen and sustain CBPR methodology on Reservations.


Building on an established CBPR collaboration on the Crow Reservation, a sampling and analysis program will be established to capture the major routes of exposure to environmental contaminants in water and aquatic food resources, unique to the Reservation’s culture. These exposure pathways will be evaluated using interviewer administered questionnaires. Data on contaminant concentrations, exposure pathways and exposure duration will be used to develop a comprehensive exposure assessment.

Expected Results:

The research has a number of expected results, including, 1. A comprehensive exposure assessment that evaluates all exposure pathways to contaminants in water, including those unique to the Reservations through lifestyle and cultural practices, 2. Improvements to the Tribal version of the LifeLine™ software, 3. Design and implementation of culturally appropriate risk communication and exposure mitigation based on education, targeted remediation or alternative, acceptable behavioral changes; and 4. A model of how to include Tribal Colleges and their science majors in Reservation based participatory research. In relation to other environmental research, this work has been identified as a top priority by the Crow Environmental Health Steering Committee. There are also air quality issues, concerns about mold, contaminated subsistence foods and solid waste disposal that are yet to be addressed.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 54 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 7 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

groundwater, heavy metals, organics, environmental chemistry, monitoring, Montana, MT,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2009 Progress Report
  • 2010 Progress Report
  • 2011 Progress Report
  • 2012 Progress Report
  • Final Report