The U.S. government is looking to get tribal homes on a par with the rest of the nation through a $90 million stimulus package for water and sanitation access. The funds will be invested in “shovel ready” infrastructure projects that aim to better protect human and environmental health, and provide jobs in American Indian and Alaskan Native communities, according to a press release by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The funding initiative is being carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Indian Health Service (IHS), the document said.
“This investment is win-win. Addressing long-standing water issues in tribal communities is also going to bring in new jobs and new opportunities –- helping them get through the economic downturn and build a lasting foundation for prosperity,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. “EPA is committed to working with our tribal partners on solutions that benefit our environment, our health and our economy.”
According to 2007 IHS data, approximately 10 percent of tribal homes do not have safe drinking water and/or wastewater disposal facilities. In comparison, 0.6 percent of non-native homes in the United States lack such infrastructure, according to 2005 data by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The water and wastewater infrastructure programs are part of a significant effort to improve tribal access to safe and adequate drinking and wastewater facilities.
In Porterville, Calif., $6.3 million will go to a project to benefit 268 homes for the Tule River Tribe. The project will replace failing septic systems, which threaten public health and the environment, with a community wastewater system, the EPA said.
The White Mountain Apache Tribe in Whiteriver, Ariz., will receive just over $1 million for a surface water treatment facility, which will provide quality drinking water to more than 2,000 homes.
According to the EPA, the stimulus money will be used for projects for American Indian communities in 22 states.
Alaskan Native communities will receive the most funding –- about $19.9 million for 19 clean water projects and $7.9 million for 11 drinking water projects. The Navajo tribe will receive about $10.1 million for 30 clean water projects and $3.1 million for a drinking water project.
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