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USDA sets aside $29 million for indoor plumbing in villages

Kyle Hopkins
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News David Guy runs tape warning of the water and sewer lines being buried in Kwethluk, AK. Water and sewer lines are being installed in the village of Kwethluk on Friday, September 21, 20112. The low pressure system will provide running water and flush toilets to the residents. Next year the east side of town is expected to be completed with the year after work will start on the west side of town. Kwethluk is a Yupik village on the Kwethluk River just upstream from the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska. 120921
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News A village dog rests on a dog house as water and sewer lines are being installed in Kwethluk, AK. Water and sewer lines are being installed in the village of Kwethluk on Friday, September 21, 20112. The low pressure system will provide running water and flush toilets to the residents. Next year the east side of town is expected to be completed with the year after work will start on the west side of town. Kwethluk is a Yupik village on the Kwethluk River just upstream from the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska. 120921
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Water and sewer lines are being installed in the village of Kwethluk on Friday, September 21, 20112. The low pressure system will provide running water and flush toilets to the residents. Next year the east side of town is expected to be completed with the year after work will start on the west side of town. Kwethluk is a Yupik village on the Kwethluk River just upstream from the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska. 120921
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Water and sewer lines are being installed in the village of Kwethluk on Friday, September 21, 20112. The low pressure system will provide running water and flush toilets to the residents. Next year the east side of town is expected to be completed with the year after work will start on the west side of town. Kwethluk is a Yupik village on the Kwethluk River just upstream from the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska. 120921
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News David Guy runs tape warning of the water and sewer lines being buried in Kwethluk, AK. Water and sewer lines are being installed in the village of Kwethluk on Friday, September 21, 20112. The low pressure system will provide running water and flush toilets to the residents. Next year the east side of town is expected to be completed with the year after work will start on the west side of town. Kwethluk is a Yupik village on the Kwethluk River just upstream from the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska. 120921
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Water and sewer lines are being installed in the village of Kwethluk on Friday, September 21, 20112. The low pressure system will provide running water and flush toilets to the residents. Next year the east side of town is expected to be completed with the year after work will start on the west side of town. Kwethluk is a Yupik village on the Kwethluk River just upstream from the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska. 120921
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Water and sewer lines are being installed in the village of Kwethluk on Friday, September 21, 20112. The low pressure system will provide running water and flush toilets to the residents. Next year the east side of town is expected to be completed with the year after work will start on the west side of town. Kwethluk is a Yupik village on the Kwethluk River just upstream from the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska. 120921
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Water and sewer lines are being installed in the village of Kwethluk on Friday, September 21, 20112. The low pressure system will provide running water and flush toilets to the residents. Next year the east side of town is expected to be completed with the year after work will start on the west side of town. Kwethluk is a Yupik village on the Kwethluk River just upstream from the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska. 120921
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Water and sewer lines are being installed in the village of Kwethluk on Friday, September 21, 20112. The low pressure system will provide running water and flush toilets to the residents. Next year the east side of town is expected to be completed with the year after work will start on the west side of town. Kwethluk is a Yupik village on the Kwethluk River just upstream from the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska. 120921
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Solomon Olick and John Guy work on water and sewer system being installed in Kwethluk, AK. Water and sewer lines are being installed in the village of Kwethluk on Friday, September 21, 20112. The low pressure system will provide running water and flush toilets to the residents. Next year the east side of town is expected to be completed with the year after work will start on the west side of town. Kwethluk is a Yupik village on the Kwethluk River just upstream from the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska. 120921
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Water and sewer lines are being installed in the village of Kwethluk on Friday, September 21, 20112. The low pressure system will provide running water and flush toilets to the residents. Next year the east side of town is expected to be completed with the year after work will start on the west side of town. Kwethluk is a Yupik village on the Kwethluk River just upstream from the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska. 120921
Bob Hallinen

A federal agency this week announced nearly $29 million will be spent to plan, build and upgrade water and sewer systems in 16 Alaska villages over the next several years.

A majority of the money will be spent on plumbing for 123 village homes where residents currently use honey buckets as toilets and collect rainwater to drink, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA is providing the grants.

Plumbing for those homes -- in Kwethluk, Toksook Bay, Eek and Lower Kalskag -- will be paid for with about $21.9 million funneled through the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the USDA said. The projects are expected to be completed by 2015.

Despite decades of vows by state leaders to rid village homes of honey buckets, a lack of flush toilets and running water remains a costly health concern in many Alaska communities. A 2010 Centers for Disease Control study revealed strong links between high rates of potentially life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis and a lack of indoor plumbing.

As of April 2012, 41 communities in rural Alaska lacked village-wide plumbing, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation. The Village Safe Water Program considers a village "unserved" if fewer than 55 percent of homes have a piped or closed-haul water system.

The USDA funding announced on Tuesday also includes about $6.2 million for water and wastewater upgrades for 65 homes in the Western Alaska villages of Quinhagak and Hooper Bay and planning work for Seldovia, McGrath and Tununak, the agency said.

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By KYLE HOPKINS
khopkins@adn.com