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The Qawalangin Tribe will hold an academy for locals about persistent organic pollutants from old U.S. defense sites

Flyer of the Qawalangin Tribe's environmental monitoring academy.
The Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska
Flyer of the Qawalangin Tribe's environmental monitoring academy.

The Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska will be holding a series of classes Monday on environmental monitoring at old U.S. defense sites.

According to the Tribe, these sites from World War II have persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which are harmful if consumed at high levels.

Elise Contreras is the environmental remediation manager for the Qawalangin Tribe. She said eating subsistence foods from areas where POPs are present is an issue.

“We want to allow people to have informed choices, informed decisions of where they are taking their subsistence foods,” said Contreras.

She said identifying highly contaminated areas is important and that will be easier with locals learning how to collect POPs data.

“If there is a spot where there are high levels of, for example polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs,” said Contreras, “we want to be able to allow people to be informed that, ‘okay, this area in particular has very high levels that might be of health concern’.”

The classes will include public input. Contreras said it’s important to hear from local community and tribal members on what they want to see out of research, site cleanup, and site prioritization.

“Because ultimately, it doesn't matter what somebody in a far off state or country thinks [is] important,” said Contreras. “It’s what the people who are living in the city and the local area — what they want to see from their community.”

The environmental monitoring academy starts Monday and it’s free and open to anyone 18-years-old and older. Students can get college credit through the University of Alaska. Interested participants can sign up by contacting the Qawalangin Tribe at 907-581-2920.

Sofia was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She’s reported around the U.S. for local public radio stations, NPR and National Native News. Sofia has a Master of Arts in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism from the University of Montana, a graduate certificate in Documentary Studies from the Salt Institute and a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Arts from the University of Colorado Boulder. In between her studies, Sofia was a ski bum in Telluride, Colorado for a few years.
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