Kawerak earns federal grant for hazardous waste ‘backhaul’ efforts in rural Alaska
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Denali Commission announced today that they will award $3 million over three years to Kawerak, Inc., the regional Native non-profit corporation serving the Bering Strait region, to implement and expand the Backhaul Alaska program for removing household hazardous wastes from rural Alaska communities.
Hazardous materials disposed of in unlined landfills in rural Alaska threaten air and water quality, and subsistence resources. Shipping out -- or “backhauling” -- is often the only safe way to dispose of household hazardous waste for these communities.
Backhaul Alaska will provide rural Alaska Native Villages with a consistent and reliable service that will coordinate the transportation of household hazardous waste and materials to appropriate recycling or disposal facilities. The program seeks to reduce the cost of backhaul by coordinating hazardous material transport and leveraging economies of scale, while reducing liability risks to transporters and recyclers.
Kawerak will initially target electronic waste; spent mercury-containing lamps such as fluorescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, high intensity discharge lights; and lead-acid batteries from vehicles, boats, heavy equipment, and all-terrain vehicles. These materials represent over 95 percent by weight of toxic wastes in rural Alaska landfills.
“Kawerak has been a leader in backhaul in the state over the past decade,” said Michelle Pirzadeh, the acting regional administrator for EPA’s Region 10 office in Seattle. “They developed a model program in the Bering Strait region and then worked very effectively with partners to pilot an expansion of the program model statewide. We are excited about Kawerak’s plans to grow the Backhaul Alaska program and the support they will provide rural Alaska communities to safely dispose of hazardous waste.”
“This partnership with EPA and now Kawerak is another sign that we’re making progress in addressing a problem plaguing rural Alaska communities for far too long,” said John Torgerson, the Denali Commission’s acting Federal Co-Chair. “The commission is excited to award this grant to Kawerak and support their plans for developing a financially sustainable program that will grow to serve all of rural Alaska in the future.”
Under the one-time, three-year grant, Kawerak will fund implementation and logistics of backhaul services, communications, coordination with tribes and advisors, development of a sustainable funding plan, backhaul training for communities, recruitment of participants and partners, and associated capacity-building.
This grant is funded through an Interagency Agreement between EPA and Denali Commission established to support capacity-building for backhaul of household hazardous waste from Alaska Native Villages. Others involved in the development of the program are the Solid Waste Alaska Taskforce, Zender Environmental Health and Research Group, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of Transportation, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, tribes, non-profits, University of Alaska, recyclers, and transporters.
Denali Commission: Jocelyn Fentonfirstname.lastname@example.org
Kawerak: Anahma Shannonemail@example.com
EPA: Bill Dunbar/Dunbar.firstname.lastname@example.org