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EPA tells Bureau of Indian Affairs to clean up tribal schools

The Environmental Protection Agency says hazardous contaminants that most schools have gotten rid of remain in more than 160 government-operated tribal schools. That includes six in the Northwest. A new settlement aims to bring schools in Native American communities up to standards.

EPA inspections of tribal schools between 2005 and 2008 found violations of seven environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Many schools simply weren't keeping up with monitoring requirements for asbestos contamination and water quality. Others didn't dispose of waste properly and a few schools registered unsafe levels of bacteria, arsenic and even uranium in the water.

Under the settlement, the Bureau of Indian Affairs will have to correct all violations and set up a monitoring system to keep tabs on conditions. The agreement includes a $235,000 civil penalty, to be used for asbestos clean-up.

The schools in the settlement include three in Washington, two in Idaho and one in Oregon.

The affected Northwest schools include:

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.