The Kalskag Water Project makes sure elders with rusted wells get clean drinking water
KALSKAG – “We use this water for many years, but it’s always rusty,” said Dunia Holmberg as she turned on her kitchen faucet. While it may look clear, it’s not safe to drink.
She’s one of nine elders in Kalskag who now get fresh water delivered by the city through The Kuskokwim Corporation’s (TKC) Water Project.
“Before they used to pack water in five-gallon buckets either from other households that had a well or straight out from the middle of the river,” explained Dwayne Hoffman, the Kalskag city administrator.
TKC President Maver Carey said she got the idea for the project from a rotary group’s similar project in Africa. She worked with rotaries around the state and the Rasmussen Foundation to raise the $50,000 needed for the project.
In Kalskag it brings water directly to the elders’ homes. Hoffman stops by City Hall to fill up at 130-gallon tanker he pulls behind his pickup. Then he heads out to make weekly deliveries.
Hoffman is able to pump water directly from the tanker into a 60-gallon storage tank inside the home.
“It’s gravity-fed so there’s no electricity or pump,” he explained.
“It’s really good water,” said Holmberg as she walked over to her fridge. “I always keep some cold in here. Juice and water.”
Delivering water can be a challenge when the temperature drops.
“In wintertime they always freeze, so we have to use a tool or torch,” said Seraphim Evan, who helped Hoffman with the deliveries.
For the most part, the water project is a simple solution to a continuing problem: Failing water and sewer systems.
“My house was built in 1997 and from there nothing has been fixed,” said Maryann Vaska. Her bathtub is brown from years of rusty water. She even stopped washing clothes in her home.
Now she doesn’t have to worry about the rust.
“It’s nice and clean, not rusty,” Vaska said. “My dishes, most of them are no more rusty, I tried to scrub them. My little house is getting a little bit shiny, not rusty. I’m really happy for that water we have now.”
Carey said she’s happy a small change can make a big difference it the elders’ lives.
“It warms my heart,” she said. “I’ve been coming out to our villages for several years. My family is from this area. My mom grew up with no running water and no flush toilets.”
For now the City of Kalskag will continue to help elders in need until something more permanent can be done to fix the aging infrastructure causing the rusty water.