2009 Progress Report: 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: Montana State University , Little Big Horn College , University of New England - University Campus
Current Institution: University of New England - University Campus , Montana State University - Bozeman
EPA Project Officer: McOliver, Cynthia
Project Period: June 1, 2009 through May 31, 2012 (Extended to May 31, 2014)
Project Period Covered by this Report: June 1, 2009 through May 31,2010
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 , Global Climate Change , Tribal Environmental Health Research , Health , Climate Change

Objective:

  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 TribalTM 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.

Progress Summary:

This is a CBPR project and therefore the objectives are guidelines to the researchers and to the community, however, final decisions on specific objectives are community driven.  Funding for methods development and data analysis under this contract is complemented by NIH funding for a community based risk assessment of exposure to contaminants through water sources and select subsistence foods.  The work is being done collaboratively between the Crow Reservation, Montana State University Bozeman and the University of New England.   The project is primarily guided by the Crow Environmental Health Steering Committee.  The Steering Committee includes representatives of the Crow Tribe, Little Big Horn College (LBHC - the tribal college for the reservation), the Apsaalooke [Crow] Water and Wastewater Authority, the local Indian Health Service Hospital, and the 107 Committee of Tribal Elders. 

After initial recommendations for funding in 2007, a further two years were taken to finalize details of the award at which time Dr Ford had moved from Montana State University to the University of New England.  The move necessitated a subcontract from the University of New England to Montana State University, which was finalized in November, 2009.

EPA funding for Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) methods development and data analysis under this contract is complemented by National Institutes of Health funding for a community based risk assessment of exposure to contaminants through water sources and select subsistence foods.  This work is being done collaboratively between the Crow Reservation, Montana State University Bozeman and the University of New England.   In this report, we describe the overall project accomplishments, in order to provide the context for the methods development and data analysis work.

Our project is guided by the Crow Environmental Health Steering Committee and our two University P.I.s, Dr. Tim Ford at the University of New England (EPA grant) and Dr. Anne Camper at Montana State University (MSU) – Bozeman (NIH grants).  The Steering Committee includes representatives of the Crow Tribe, Little Big Horn College (LBHC - the tribal college for the reservation), the Apsaalooke [Crow] Water and Wastewater Authority, the local Indian Health Service Hospital, and the 107 Committee of Tribal Elders.  The Steering Committee meets monthly to discuss a range of environmental health issues on the Reservation, and to provide guidance and input into this risk assessment project.

As of June 30, 2010, a total of 75 participants from 50 homes on the Crow Reservation had completed surveys, had their wells tested and received reports back from us.  An additional 11 participants have recently completed surveys and are awaiting scheduling of well water sampling.  The reports mailed to homeowners describe their water quality, identify any health and plumbing maintenance issues, and suggest treatment needed.  Letters also include handouts on contaminants found, a booklet on water treatment options and a CD on well and septic system maintenance.  The CD includes a demonstration of how to shock chlorinate a well.  Our Coordinator at LBHC follows up in person, as many homeowners find it helpful to have the results explained in person (and often in the Crow language) or they have additional questions. 

Last November, with EPA funding, Eggers and Cummins were able to complete an initial two day training on the Tribal Lifeline software, provided by a trainer from Lifeline Inc.  We are looking at this software to determine how useful it will be for assessing risks associated with water use and consumption.

In May 2010 we provided training in lab skills courtesy of Camper’s Lab Manager at MSU, Sue Broadaway, and in water quality and well and septic system maintenance, courtesy of MSU’s Water Quality Extension office (Adam Sigler and colleagues).  Our current intern and our two Steering Committee members from the Tribal Environmental Department participated in these trainings, along with other tribal college science research interns from Crow. 

In June 2010, we gave two different panel presentations at the EPA Tribal Science Forum in Traverse City, MI.  Steering Committee members John Doyle and Larry Kindness participated, along with Crescentia Cummins, Mari Eggers, Tim Ford and Sara Young (for INBRE).  One panel presentation was on CBPR and included several researchers from other tribes; the second presentation was on our Crow risk assessment project.  The EPA office in Denver subsequently invited us to present at one of their upcoming regional conferences, as they think our example is unique to the region and may be useful to other Tribes in Region 8.

All the partners in this project, including the members of our Steering Committee, co-authored an article which was just published July 1, 2010, in the journal Family and Community Health.  Eggers and Young also presented a poster at the National IDeA Symposium of Biomedical Research Excellence (NISBRE), June 2010, in Bethesda, MD.  The NISBRE Conference selected our poster to be highlighted and gave us a travel award.  We also presented all of our water quality results to the Crow Reservation community at an open house in the fall of 2009.  For a complete listing of publications and presentations, please see the attached document.

The aims of this project have not changed from the original application.

Changes to Key Personnel
Tim Ford (principal investigator), Vice President for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of New England continues to guide and oversee the project activities and progress.  In addition, Professor Anne Camper, who replaced Ford as PI on a number of environmental health projects at Montana State University, is serving as subcontract PI for this award.

QA/QC
Protocols used for analyzing water quality parameters are consistent with methods and procedures in the Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater (20th Edition, 1998, AWWA/APHA/WEF) and with the US-EPA Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water (https://www.epa.gov/safewater/methods/sourcalt.html).

The study protocol relating to residential recruitment and home participation has been approved and annually renewed by the MSU Institutional Review Board (IRB) Human Subject Committee.

Results to Date
Results (outputs/outcomes) to date, emphasizing findings and their significance to the field, their relationship to the general goals of the award, their relevance to the Agency’s mission, and their potential practical applications.

A major effort this past quarter has been to compile the data from the wells on the Crow Reservation.  Of the 50 wells tested to date, not a single one has water meeting all the EPA primary and secondary standards.   40% are contaminated with coliforms, 20% exceed EPA’s health criteria for manganese, 31% have arsenic (although only one well exceeded EPA’s standard for arsenic), and the majority exceed secondary standards for TDS (80%), sulfate (60%) and/or hardness (74%).  Surveys reflect a general need for public education on how to protect and maintain wells and septic systems, especially from fecal contamination.  Letters back to homeowners also address contamination risk factors identifiable from the individuals’ surveys.

Graduate student Mari Eggers has constructed a GIS of the Reservation and is entering the well water quality data.  Separate layers for each contaminant allow easy visualization of their spatial distribution and concentration at any given site.   We believe that this approach will be of benefit in understanding the well water quality results.

With EPA funding, we have just obtained and learned to use a Colilert system (IDEXX Corp.) to be able to better quantify coliform and E. coli contamination of both wells and river water.    As some 40% of wells are testing positive for coliform contamination, the new Colilert system will help us to understand the magnitude of this problem.  The Little Big Horn River has such high levels of fecal contamination that it periodically exceeds levels considered safe for swimming.  Water from this river is still used today in several Crow traditions, including practices in which it is drunk untreated.   The Little Big Horn River is also the source water for the Crow Agency municipal water system.  We are also now collaborating with the USGS, the Montana EPA office and the Crow Tribe to do more thorough seasonal monitoring of the Little Big Horn River, which is providing us with better data on pathogen loading, water quantity and water chemistry. 

Future Activities:

  • Begin to analyze survey and water quality data and test the utility of the Lifeline™ Software in building a comparative risk assessment with this data.
  • Complete the fieldwork and survey administration and identify data gaps.
  • Hold informational meetings for the Tribe and disseminate information that can help tribal members make informed choices for risk mitigation
  • Prepare publications.


Journal Articles on this Report : 1 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other project views: All 54 publications 7 publications in selected types All 7 journal articles
Type Citation Project Document Sources
Journal Article Cummins C, Doyle J, Kindness L, Lefthand MJ, Bear Don’t Walk UJ, Bends A, Broadaway SC, Camper AK, Fitch R, Ford TE, Hamner S, Morrison AR, Richards CL, Young SL, Eggers MJ. Community-based participatory research in Indian country: improving health through water quality research and awareness. Family & Community Health 2010;33(3):166-174. R833706 (2009)
R833706 (2010)
R833706 (Final)
  • Full-text from PubMed
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Associated PubMed link
  • Abstract: Family & Community Health-Abstract
    Exit
  • Supplemental Keywords:

    CBPR, well-water, exposure, risk, communication, cultural

    Relevant Websites:

    http://epa.blhtech.com/webinars/exit EPA

    http://www.crowtribe.com/exit EPA

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2010 Progress Report
  • 2011 Progress Report
  • 2012 Progress Report
  • Final Report