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