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USDA Funding Brings Clean Water, Sanitation, Into the Rural Village Homes of Alaska Natives

The thought of having to hand-carry a honey bucket, (a five gallon pail filled with human waste) out of your house and dump it to an outdoor common collection container in winter temperatures that drop to -55 °F, is an unpleasant scenario. For some residents in the community of Lower Kalskag, and other rural Alaskan communities, this is a reality.  They have no indoor plumbing, and no indoor hot or cold running water.

The community of Lower Kalskag, Alaska, is remotely located 350 miles west of Anchorage in a persistent poverty area. This small, predominantly Alaska Native community has a population of around 280 and roughly fifty percent of its homes still lack adequate sanitation systems. The lack of sanitation services is a dire health and safety issue faced daily by a number of rural Alaska residents.

Common waste collection sites on the Alaskan tundra.  USDA, with its partners, is working to retire systems like this and replace them with safe, sanitary water and sewer systems.

Common waste collection sites on the Alaskan tundra. USDA, with its partners, is working to retire systems like this and replace them with safe, sanitary water and sewer systems.

However, the community of Lower Kalskag also provides a glimpse of the progress and success of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was executed by USDA-Rural Development (RD) and its partners on June 15, 2011. Those partners, including the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), State of Alaska’s Village Safe Water Program, and Indian Health Service, are essential in helping to provide rural Alaskan communities with safe and healthy sanitation systems. Under the MOU, a phased approach is being utilized to successfully get projects moving through to the construction phase.

It is through that phased approach the community of Lower Kalskag has received service from USDA’s Rural Alaska Village Grant program (RAVG). In Federal Fiscal Year 2010, Lower Kalskag received a grant from the RAVG program to design proposed utility improvements. The design was finalized in early 2012 and allowed the ANTHC, on behalf of Lower Kalskag, to apply for a construction grant to serve homes in the community. Construction is anticipated to be underway by this summer.

The effort to retire the use honey buckets in this community, and other rural Alaskan communities, is no small feat. It is an effort among the partners of the RAVG program and the community of Lower Kalskag. The result of those efforts and the grants provided by the USDA’s RAVG program will help improve the health safety of community members for generations to come.

To find out more about USDA water and environmental programs, and how they could benefit your community, click here.

Wearing breathing apparatus, Alaska village residents transfer human waste to a collection bucket.  The untreated waste will then be taken to a sewage lagoon. Working with its partners, USDA is funding projects to replace these systems with safe sewage handling systems, reducing the incidence of disease in Alaska rural villages.

Wearing breathing apparatus, Alaska village residents transfer human waste to a collection bucket. The untreated waste will then be taken to a sewage lagoon. Working with its partners, USDA is funding projects to replace these systems with safe sewage handling systems, reducing the incidence of disease in Alaska rural villages.

2 Responses to “USDA Funding Brings Clean Water, Sanitation, Into the Rural Village Homes of Alaska Natives”

  1. Wayne says:

    just say NO to GMOs. short of that Just Label It!

  2. Richard says:

    Although the headlines sound good…it is just a waste of money. Might as well flush tax dollars down this sewer system. After hooking up all homes, for millions of dollars, people who cannot afford to pay their bills will be cut off, increasing the cost and squeezing the remaining residents. It would be far more practical and cost effective to put a well and septic in each residence. Of course, that would relinquish some control over people and they might actually have a higher standard of living. Why don’t people look at the most effective ways to benefit us instead of making decisions from afar. 72 homes at 5-10k each for well and septic is 360-720k. But no, let’s put in that $3.5 million system that no one can really afford to take advantage of. Or is the plan for the service to be gratis this time around?

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