EPA, Choctaw Nation collaborate to provide safe drinking water to Texas school

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Choctaw Nation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) recognized Jones Academy for successfully addressing water quality challenges at the school.

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DALLAS, NOVEMEBR 30, 2016 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Choctaw Nation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) recognized Jones Academy for successfully addressing water quality challenges at the school and providing safer drinking water for their students. Earlier today, the group highlighted the improvements at the school, located near Hartshorne, Okla. The project supported EPA's EJ 2020 action plan, which is the five-year plan for achieving environmental justice goals.

"At EPA, it's our job to help every community have equal access to clean air, water and land," said Regional Administrator Ron Curry. "This example shows how tribes, local leaders and EPA develop solutions to make communities great places to live, play and work."

On May 28, 2014, EPA issued an Administrative Order to Jones Academy through BIA to correct disinfection by-products violations. BIA worked with the school to protect the health and well-being of Native American youth.

"The partnership between EPA, the BIA and Choctaw Nation was significant in ensuring safe drinking water for the kids at Jones Academy," said Chief Gary Batton. "I want to thank everyone who was dedicated to improving the water system, from the planning stages until it was complete."

BIA formed a multi-disciplinary team comprised of representatives from EPA, Jones Academy, Choctaw Nation, Eastern Oklahoma tribal schools, and local stakeholders to develop a plan to modify the existing water treatment system. Within a year's time span, the engineering plans were developed, finalized and construction began to improve the system. The aggressive approach allowed system modifications, completion and ultimately federal compliance.

The partnership exemplified federal, tribal and local entities success towards the common goal of providing a safe and healthy environment for local youth.

The EJ 2020 Action Agenda, or EJ 2020, focuses attention on environmental and public health issues and challenges facing the nation's minority, low-income, tribal and indigenous populations. EJ 2020 summarizes EPA's priority areas and significant national environmental justice challenges, objectives, and measures for success. Under EJ 2020, EPA will advance environmental justice to a new level and make a more visible difference in the environmental and public health outcomes for all people in the nation. Strengthening our collaborations with the communities we serve, our governmental partners and interested stakeholders will be key to achieving this vision.

Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income in the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.

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