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Tununak has a long road ahead to having a washeteria

The village of Tununak, AK does not have a washeteria for residents to wash their clothes after the old one burned down on Feb. 15.
Courtesy of Creative Commons.

The coastal community of Tununak has a plan to build a temporary washeteria to replace the one that burned down on Feb. 15. But the path forward is complicated, and it’s not clear when Tununak will have a new washeteria.

Tununak plans to convert an old, unused Alaska National Guard armory building into a temporary washeteria, according to the state and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC). Tununak’s tribal administrator did not return KYUK’s calls.

The armory building measures 30 feet by 50 feet, and is still owned by the Alaska National Guard. It was sitting unused in the community and there were plans to demolish it. Tununak plans to move the building to the location of the previous washeteria that burned down, but there are a lot of steps before Tununak has a working washeteria.

The village is working primarily with Alaska’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management on the project. Division spokesperson Jeremy Zidek said that first, the National Guard needs to transfer ownership of the building to the City of Tununak or some other group in the community. Then Zidek said that debris will have to be removed.

“And if that material needs to be treated in any special way, if there's any hazardous materials on the site. Also, a foundation needs to be prepared for the building before it can be moved to that site. We're also looking at the contract to move the building; it requires some specialized equipment. And there's logistics that have to go into getting that specialized equipment to the site. Also connecting to water, power, and sewer,” Zidek said.

Zidek was unable to provide a timeframe for when all this could be completed.

Tununak’s washeteria was not the community’s source of drinking water. Residents get drinking water at the school, but the washeteria did provide water for the village health clinic. A spokesperson for YKHC said that the clinic is currently using water brought in buckets. YKHC is working on installing a tank for a hauled water system in the clinic that is expected to be completed by the end of April.

In the long term, Tununak is working to install a piped water and sewer system for the whole community. It is estimated to cost $47 million for the approximately 90 homes in Tununak.

The Alaska Village Safe Water program is leading that project, and it has $31 million available, about two-thirds of the funding it needs to complete that project. The state expects to receive the remaining funding in the next few years. The entire project is expected to be completed in around six years.

Greg Kim was a news reporter for KYUK from 2019-2022.
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