Many more people in Y-K Delta villages will soon have access to running water to wash their hands during the coronavirus outbreak. On March 24, the Alaska Rural Utility Collaborative (ARUC)’s advisory committee voted to reconnect running water to homes that were unable to pay for it.
ARUC manages water and sewer systems for 26 rural Alaskan communities that include Chevak, Goodnews Bay, Holy Cross, Kotlik, Upper and Lower Kalskag, Pitka’s Point, Quinhagak, Russian Mission, Scammon Bay, Sleetmute, and Toksook Bay.
While there is running water in those communities, many homes were disconnected due to an inability to pay. ARUC Senior Program Manager Francine Moreno says that those homes will get their water turned back on immediately.
“Handwashing is the number one prevention for spreading any illness. And right now, with the heightened concern of the coronavirus, we want to make sure as many homes have access to clean water despite their ability to pay,” Moreno said.
Homes with frozen pipes will be thawed and reconnected by the collaborative. There are also a number of homes that are disconnected from the water system where the pipes are broken. In those cases, ARUC operators will try to fix the pipes if they have the parts on hand. Moreno says that the water will stay on at least through the end of May, and perhaps longer if the COVID-19 outbreak continues. Homeowners will still be billed for the water they use.
“But then we’re also looking into can we do a reduced rate, or is there a way we can provide free service for a short amount of time,’” Moreno said.
ARUC will also track the expenses and see if the state can provide some reimbursement during this public health emergency.