Exposure Assessment to Environmental Contaminants on the Crow Reservation: A Community Based Participatory Research Project

EPA Grant Number: F6D30222
Title: Exposure Assessment to Environmental Contaminants on the Crow Reservation: A Community Based Participatory Research Project
Investigators: Eggers, Margaret J.
Institution: Montana State University
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: September 1, 2006 through September 1, 2009
Project Amount: $111,327
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Tribal Environmental Health Research


This Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) project seeks to address environmental health hazards on the Apsalooke (Crow) Reservation, especially those related to drinking water contamination. Our project is a collaboration among the Crow Tribe’s environmental, health, natural resources and agriculture personnel; health and civil engineering professionals from the Indian Health Service Hospital in Crow Agency; science faculty and students from Little Big Horn College (LBHC) - the Tribal College on the Reservation; Environmental Health faculty and graduate students from Montana State University; Big Horn County Commissioner J. Doyle, the Apsalooke Water and Wastewater Authority and additional organizations and community members from the Crow Tribe. The Crow Reservation community is exposed to high concentrations of environmental contaminants through a number of factors. These include: 1) widespread leasing of agricultural lands, which may reduce the incentive for operator environmental stewardship; 2) the lack of regulations on reservation lands to mitigate environmental effects of agriculture; 3) subsistence hunting and gathering and other traditional practices that increase exposure risk to environmental contaminants; 4) inadequate, outdated or non-existent water and wastewater treatment systems; and 5) the unequal distribution of mine and other toxic waste sites on Reservation lands.

The major objective of this research is to build on an existing partnership between the Crow community, including LBHC, and Montana State University, to establish contaminant monitoring programs, assess exposure pathways to those contaminants, and model exposure risks within the reservation communities. A secondary objective is to examine correlations with specific health outcomes, i.e., anecdotal evidence from community members of cancer clusters that are believed to be related to poor quality water, and work with tribal members to establish culturally-acceptable mitigation strategies that can reduce those environmental health risks.


The community steering committee will participate in every phase of the work which will involve, 1) Establishing a sampling and analysis program to adequately assess contaminant loadings to ground waters, surface waters and subsistence foods; 2) Evaluating exposure pathways, including subsistence and other cultural practices that contribute to exposure risk; 3) Communicating risks to community residents and developing and providing recommendations for exposure mitigation and future monitoring. LBHC science majors and faculty member Eggers, in collaboration with MSU, will have primary responsibility for implementing the research.

Expected Results:

Our expected results include: 1) an analysis of contaminant loadings of surface and ground waters used for drinking and bathing; 2) an evaluation of exposure pathways, including subsistence and other cultural pathways that contribute to exposure risk; 3) development of recommendations for exposure mitigation and future monitoring; 4) a public education program to communicate risks to community residents; and 5) improved education and retention of LBHC science majors (predominantly Crow Tribal members), by providing an opportunity for them to participate in local scientific research that is relevant to their lives and community. This project is likely to extend beyond the three years of this fellowship.

Supplemental Keywords:

Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR); environmental health; water quality; subsistence foods; environmental sampling; exposure pathways; exposure mitigation; risk communication; Native American science education; Tribal College,, Health, Scientific Discipline, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, HUMAN HEALTH, Health Risk Assessment, Exposure, Risk Assessments, Environmental Monitoring, Risk Assessment, ecological risk assessment, biological pathways, drinking water, environmental risks, outreach and training, human exposure, mitigating factors, native americans, cultural practices, dietary exposure, exposure assessment, human health risk

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • 2008
  • Final