Water/Sewer Systems Falling Apart in Akhiok

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Akhiok Vice-Mayor Dan McCoy points out some of the constant repairs he must make on the dilapidated water treatment equipment in his community. Photo courtesy Rep. Alan Austerman

Brianna Gibbs/KMXT

For the residents of Akhiok, a small village on the south end of Kodiak Island, access to clean drinking water is a daily challenge. Every day, Vice-Mayor Dan McCoy gets calls from the community asking if the water is safe to drink. Often times it isn’t, and McCoy must get on the VHF radio and tell everyone to boil their water until further notice.

The village gets its drinking water from a small reservoir nearby. McCoy said he is always concerned about the water levels, but even when the levels are high, making sure the water is safe to drink is the biggest challenge.

Because of the poor infrastructure, water isn’t given enough contact time with the chlorine, so it runs the risk of housing bacteria even after it is treated. McCoy said even if the equipment were in perfect working order, there is no way it would be able to keep up with clean water standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

McCoy said many families fly in bottled water because they never know how safe the water really is. He said the equipment is so bad that every day he opens the door to the pump house expecting a flood. If that day ever does come, the villagers will have to boil all the water they use.

And while the water situation is bad, the sewer situation in the village is worse.

The sewer is supposed to run out into deeper water, but the pipe is broken closer to shore. McCoy said he regularly has to tell children to stop playing on the beaches because the sewer is running near them. The sewer system is in such disarray that if the EPA wanted to it could start fining the village daily.

McCoy said Akhiok’s battle for clean water and a proper sewer system isn’t new. He has been trying to get funding to fix the problem for more than seven years, but has had little success.

Two weeks ago, staff members from Representative Alan Austerman’s office came down to document the problem. McCoy hopes their experience will shed some light on Akhiok’s dire situation in Juneau.

In the meantime, the village of Akhiok remains on constant water watch, and McCoy continues to make repairs to a system far beyond broken.

Read more here, at alanausterman.com

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