In Alaska, 31 villages in the state have no way to dispose of their bodily waste. With no city pipes or wastewater system to take the waste to treatment plants, many villages rely on disposal sites away from town. But with changes in the weather, the sites could lead to a greater risk of human waste seeping into water sources for the residents.

From the story on ArcticToday: “Managing sewage and protecting clean water for drinking and washing can be a daunting challenge for many communities — often predominately Indigenous — in rural Alaska and elsewhere in the Arctic, where the lack of facilities combines with challenging conditions made increasingly uncertain as the Arctic quickly warms.

Arctic residents without piped water or sewage service — or with service that is substandard — have long faced higher rates of contagious diseases. The COVID-19 pandemic is no different; Alaska Natives make up 16 percent of the state’s population but as of early September, accounted for 29 percent of the state’s COVID deaths. The pandemic helped spur a national response. The just-signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $3.5 billion in Indian Health Service sanitation facilities construction program, with work to be phased in over five years, plus $230 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s grant program for village water and wastewater projects.”

In time, the 31 villages could get hooked up with a proper waste disposal system, but in the right now residents are still using buckets and plastic bags to dispose of waste, risking severe disease outbreaks among the very young and the elderly.

To read the rest of the story on ArcticToday, click here.