2011 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: 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, 2011 through May 31,2012
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


Objectives of this research project are to:  (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) explore existing conceptual models for cumulative risk assessment as potential frameworks for a CRA for the Crow Reservation; 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 EPA funding covers expenses at the University of New England, and project leader Eggers’ time at Montana State University Bozeman. Eggers’ time is now primarily focused on methods development, data analysis, project coordination and literature review, especially the cumulative risk assessment literature. The work is being done collaboratively between the Crow Reservation, Montana State University Bozeman and the University of New England. The project is largely guided by the Crow Environmental Health Steering Committee. The Steering Committee includes representatives of the Crow Tribal Environmental, Health and Legal Departments, 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. 
Well Testing and Well Owner Education
The bacterial and comprehensive chemical analyses of domestic well water were completed in the spring of 2012, with 164 wells tested to date. Accompanying surveys were completed by 237 adult family members. The water in every well has exceeded one or more EPA secondary standards (related to aesthetics). Mineral and/or microbial contamination of home well water exceeded EPA primary standards or health advisories in 55% of wells tested, presenting health risks to Reservation residents who own and use wells. Data for 550+ additional local wells, tested by the Indian Health Service at time of installation, have been scanned and manually entered into our database. GIS maps showing the spatial distribution of each contaminant have been prepared and are being presented to the community.
Risk Communication and Mitigation
All well owners have received their well test results in writing, with an explanation of the risks, the acceptable uses of their well water, and their options for treatment. In-person followup is in progress. Community engagement and national outreach to share our research results is ongoing. We are also pilot testing low cost, high tech home water filtration units on the Reservation. Data have been used by the Water and Wastewater Authority to obtain funding to upgrade the water and wastewater treatment systems, and to provide centralized access to municipal water for residents currently on well water.   
Other Work
With various other funding sources and a variety of collaborators, we are also: (1) conducting interviews with key informants on the broader impacts of water contamination; (2) working on a compilation and interpretation of Little Big Horn River water quality; (3) sampling the Little Big Horn River water and sediments for minerals, especially metals, to establish baseline levels prior to pending energy development in the watershed; and (4) working with a Crow geologist to raise public awareness about uranium in well water on the Reservation. 

Future Activities:

  • Continued engagement with homeowners on well water test results, accompanying health risks and potential mitigation measures.
  • Continued work with the community on risk communication and risk mitigation strategies, including the home water filtration system.
  • Completion and publication of qualitative research on broader impacts of well water contamination.
  • Analysis, write up and publication of well testing and survey data.
  • Continued regional and national dissemination, including to Indian Country.

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 Christopher S, Saha R, Lachapelle P, Jennings D, Colclough Y, Cooper C, Cummins C, Eggers MJ, FourStar K, Harris K, Kuntz SW, LaFromboise V, LaVeaux D, McDonald T, Real Bird J, Rink E, Webster L. Applying indigenous community-based participatory research principles to partnership development in health disparities research. Family and Community Health 2011;34(3):246-255. R833706 (2011)
R833706 (Final)
  • Full-text from PubMed
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Associated PubMed link
  • Full-text: ResearchGate-Abstract & Full Text PDF
  • Abstract: Family & Community Health-Abstract
  • Supplemental Keywords:

    CBPR, well water, water quality, exposure, cumulative risk assessment, risk communication, risk mitigation, Native American, environmental justice

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2009 Progress Report
  • 2010 Progress Report
  • 2012 Progress Report
  • Final Report