Saturday, October 20, 2012

Federal funds to provide water, sanitation infrastructure in rural Alaska

NPR reported a few days ago on a $29 million grant from the USDA which will be used to bring running water and flush toilets to sixteen remote Alaskan communities.  The places that will get the funding and new infrastructure are mostly native villages, and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium will oversee the program.   Matt Dixon, who oversees that program, describes in great detail the remoteness of these communities:
You know, if you're not from Alaska, they're really hard to describe.  Alaskan villages are very, very remote.  There's no road access, and most are located either on the coast or on a river.  So during the summer months, you can get there via boat or barge if you want to move heavy equipment in.  But in general, you're going to fly to these communities.  Some of them as far as three to 400 miles form what most of us would consider a metropolitan area, and they vary in size, anywhere from about 100 people to about 1,200 folks.  
Dixon then goes on to describe--in equally great detail--how the residents of these places currently get water (melt it in the winter; carry it from a river or collect rain run-off from roof at other times) and how they dispose of their human waste (a so-called honey bucket that must be hand carried to a lagoon).  

The new sanitation infrastructure will include a water treatment facility and a waste treatment facility at each of these 16 locations.  Though the building season in Alaska is short, Dixon estimates the new facilities will be in place by late 2014.

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