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Improving Tribal Solid Waste Program Capacity and Closing Solid Waste Open Dumps

by Mary L. Smith, Principal Deputy Director, IHS

The Indian Health Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are committed to reducing the number of solid waste open dump sites because they threaten the health and safety of residents of Indian and Alaska Native lands. We are working together with tribal leaders to strengthen tribal government capacity to implement effective solid waste management programs and reduce solid waste open dumps throughout Indian country. 

A new January 2017 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) [PDF - 937 KB] establishes the role of each agency in this effort. The IHS has committed to improve the accuracy and completeness of data characterizing open dumps impacting tribal communities, and the EPA has committed to complete regular assessments, evaluations and reporting on tribal solid waste programs, including their effectiveness in reducing open dumping activities. IHS will utilize the improved open dumps data and EPA tribal solid waste program assessments to develop, prioritize and fund projects to close the open dumps. 

Also included in the MOU is a joint commitment by IHS and EPA to develop and deliver training and technical assistance to improve the effectiveness of tribal solid waste management programs.  This work is already underway through a 2016 interagency funding agreement [PDF - 1.79 MB] between EPA and IHS to support a multi-year training effort to help tribes develop and implement effective solid waste enforcement codes and ordinances that are appropriate for their communities.

I would like to extend my gratitude to the tribal, IHS, EPA and State of Alaska staff of the interagency waste work group that assessed current open dump data and developed the actions included in the MOU. Read more about the IHS commitment to environmental health in Indian country on our IHS Office of Environmental Health and Engineering page.

Ms. Smith, a member of the Cherokee Nation, leads IHS, a nationwide health care delivery program responsible for providing preventive, curative and community health care to approximately 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Mary L. Smith, Principal Deputy Director, IHS