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EPA Awards 2019 Environmental Justice Small Grants for Projects to Passamaquoddy Tribe of Pleasant Point and Penobscot Indian Nation

Contact Information: 
David Deegan (
(617) 918-1017

BOSTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that $1.5 million in competitive grants will be awarded to 50 organizations working to address environmental justice issues in their communities, including $30,000 grants to the Passamaquoddy Tribe of Pleasant Point and the Penobscot Indian Nation.

Fifty percent of the grants awarded will support communities with census tracts designated as federal Opportunity Zones – an economically-distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. 

"Rural and disadvantaged communities are often disproportionately affected by environmental health risks, and at EPA we are working to reverse this trend," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "These grants support the President's initiatives to invest in and revitalize distressed communities. By supporting often overlooked, local organizations that understand the unique challenges that their communities face, we're better able to put in place long-term solutions to improve the environment and health of underserved areas of the country."

"These grants further EPA's commitment to support communities across New England as they work to address critical environmental and public health issues," said EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel. "Addressing environmental justice concerns is a priority for EPA and the projects funded by these grants will have long lasting benefits for years to come."

Project information:

  • The Passamaquoddy Tribe of Pleasant Point's project will test local drinking water for contaminates and address community concerns about the quality of the drinking water available at the Pleasant Point Reservation. The Passamaquoddy Tribe of Pleasant Point's community members do not trust that the drinking water delivered to their homes is safe to drink. Community residents report the water being discolored periodically each year sometimes appearing yellow or brown in color. This project will engage community members who volunteer their homes to be used in the drinking water study. Additional project activities include installation of a drinking water fill station accessible to all community members, water testing, multiple community meetings and workshops detailing drinking water needs, development of a drinking water report, and the beginning stages of developing a community action plan to improve drinking water quality.

  • The Penobscot Indian Nation project aims to address mercury contamination in freshwater fish from tribal water sources. Recent studies have identified harmful levels of toxic pollutants in fish from the tribe's Penobscot River reservation waters, which lie downstream of industrial dischargers, leading tribal members to shift their sustenance fishing to the isolated tribal lakes which do not have direct point source dischargers. However, fish from these isolated water bodies have been rarely, if ever, sampled for contaminants. This project will provide species- and site-specific information on mercury concentrations in fish and crayfish from lakes subject to tribal sustenance fishing rights. Findings from this project will be used to inform the tribal community and to influence behavior to minimize mercury exposure during sustenance fishing. Finally, data on mercury in fish and crayfish will provide the baseline data needed to design a long-term mercury monitoring program that informs policymakers on the effectiveness of current mercury water quality regulations.


EPA's Environmental Justice Small Grants program provides critical support to organizations that otherwise lack the funding and resources to address environmental challenges in underserved and overburdened communities. The funding will help organizations in 27 states and Puerto Rico carry out projects that will:

  • Educate residents about environmental issues that may impact their health.
  • Collect data about local environmental conditions.
  • Conduct demonstrations and trainings to shed light on those conditions.
  • Work collaboratively to address environmental justice challenges in their communities.

The grants will enable these organizations to conduct research, provide education and training, and develop community-driven solutions to local health and environmental issues in minority, low-income, tribal, and rural communities. Sixteen of this year's environmental justice grant projects are in communities that are especially vulnerable to disasters.

Specific grant projects include: reducing exposure to lead and other water pollutants; developing green infrastructure and sustainable agriculture projects; implementing basic energy efficiency measures in low-income households; and increasing overall community resiliency. For the second year in a row, EPA's Urban Waters program provided $300,000 in funding toward some of the grant awards. Ten grants were awarded to communities focused on improving water quality. This year EPA received 208 applications, which is the highest number since 2013. The grant awards provide approximately $30,000 per project for a one-year project period.

More information:

For descriptions of each of the 2019 Environmental Justice Small Grant awardees' projects, visit

For more information on the Environmental Justice Small Grants Program, including descriptions of previously funded grants: