Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Senior Environmental Specialist Jeremy Phillips, and the Community Development Department’s Environmental Protection and Natural Resources (CDD/EPNR) Division as a team, received the 2020 Conner Byestewa Jr. Environmentalist Award to recognize the efforts of individuals that have made and strengthened tribal self-government and improved human health and environmental conditions with Indian Country in EPA Region 9.
The late Byestewa was the director of the Environmental Protection and Agricultural Regulatory Office for the Colorado River Indian Tribes. Byestewa was also a member of the Regional Tribal Operations Committee (RTOC) for EPA Region 9 and worked on Western Regional Air Partnerships, perchlorate and pesticide issues.
One of the main jobs Phillips has is to help other tribes, which includes implementing pesticide programs with the Tohono O’odham Nation, Cocopah Indian Tribe and Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe. Phillips also helps to develop documents and standard operating procedures and guides the tribal communities with worker-protection standards information.
At SRPMIC, Phillips helps to ensure that farm workers are being treated fairly and that portable restrooms and proper sanitation stations are available.
“If there are pesticide applications being done, the farmers have to tell the workers to be careful working in or next to this or that field and make sure they wash their hands after touching chemicals or pesticides,” said Phillips.
“At SRPMIC, we’re all team players. By me receiving this award, it’s for all of us in our office. I do manage the pesticide and hazardous waste programs, but I also have people who help me. We all work together to help each other out.”
During this past Fall Overhaul program, Phillips noted that CDD/EPNR was able to help the Community get rid of about 400 pounds of pesticide waste, as well as toxic waste from car batteries and old computers.
Phillips sits on the EPA Region 9 Tribal Pesticide Program Council (TPPC) board out of San Francisco, California, and CDD/EPNR receives its funding out of this regional office. Like Byestewa, he is also on the Regional Tribal Operations Committee (RTOC) board, which meets on a quarterly basis to talk about the environmental problems the surrounding tribal communities are having, such as needing help with grants or funding for clean-air programs.