Instructor to Help Tribal Communities Assess Environmental Hazards

Published 03.30.2005

Faculty & Staff

Steven R. ParkerAn instructor of environmental technology at Pennsylvania College of Technology has been invited to help American Indian communities assess and resolve environmental issues on their land.

Steven R. Parker, a first-year faculty member at Penn College, will travel this summer to work with the Makah Tribe on the tip of Puget Sound in Washington for the Indian Country Environmental Hazard Assessment Project (ICEHAP). The project is sponsored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency and Harvard School of Public Health.

The FDA sought Parker's help because of his prior experience working with American Indian communities, which made him well-known to federal officials. Before joining Penn College's faculty, he served as an environmental manager for two tribes. He worked for one of the tribes for five years, building its environmental staff from five to 20 and increasing its budget to address environmental concerns from $300,000 to over $3 million a year, mainly through grants from the EPA.

He then became a consultant and was recommended by the EPA to help another tribe that was about to lose its federal funding because it had not used grants it had previously received.

With ICEHAP, Parker will accompany FDA and EPA officials, along with one other faculty member from either Harvard University or the University of Michigan, to help two tribes each summer (because of prior commitments, Parker will only visit one tribe in the summer of 2005). His work is voluntary, but his expenses will be paid by ICEHAP.

"I'm really looking forward to it," Parker said. "It's an honor."

The training is offered to tribes that request help to solve environmental problems. The group will offer a five-day, hands-on course, teaching tribe members about environmental hazards and helping them to identify their own problems. Parker said they will also give the tribal communities some ideas about which government departments they should contact to resolve problems, in addition to helping them with writing grants.

Parker said water problems are common on American Indian reservations, either with the quality or quantity of the water supply. ICEHAP might help those communities, for example, to set up water-testing programs and identify pollution sources. Other issues the team might help tribes address include mold, lead paint, contaminated soil, abandoned properties or open-pit dumps.

"My eventual plan is to see how it operates and to work out some internships for students in (Penn College's) Environmental Technology program," Parker said.

The College offers both an associate's degree in Environmental Technology and a bachelor's degree in Environmental Technology Management.

Parker has completed all the requirements but the dissertation for a doctorate in environmental science education at Arizona State University. He earned master's and bachelor's degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of Arizona. Before working with American Indian tribal communities, he taught at Central Arizona College.

To learn more about the academic programs offered by the School of Natural Resources Management, call (570) 320-8038, send e-mail or visit online .