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ANTHC Environmental Health and Engineering Crew construct new Akutan water impoundment and pipeline

September 6, 2018

On a hillside above the community of Akutan in the Aleutian Islands, an ANTHC Environmental Health and Engineering crew is using hand tools to build an 8-foot-tall concrete dam and accompanying 860-foot-long pipeline to capture community drinking water. The new concrete dam and pipeline, funded by the City of Akutan and the USDA Rural Development, will replace the former plywood structure and leaky pipeline. At the community’s request, the ANTHC crews have avoided using heavy equipment and all-terrain vehicles to complete the project, keeping the sensitive hillside environment as pristine as possible. The workers start each day navigating steep, wet terrain carrying whatever supplies they need up to the project site. Anything that the crew cannot carry up the steep path to the site, which has included electric generators for power tools, sacks of concrete and pipe for the line, is flown in by helicopter. Another physically challenging element of this project involved creating the footings for the dam. The crew cut into the island bedrock with a rock saw, jackhammered the cut rock to break it up, then lifted the large chunks of basalt out of the holes by hand. In addition to the physically taxing work, the Aleutian weather has also been a challenge for the team. Joe Hess, ANTHC project engineer, noted that sometimes people working on the dam struggled to reach the community when helicopters couldn’t land due to thick fog, rain, or gusting winds. When the remnants of a Pacific typhoon made landfall on the island, the drainage where the dam was being built filled in a matter of hours, sending a deluge through the construction site, keeping the crew from work that day. Despite the challenging terrain, weather and remoteness of the job site, the project is moving forward and is slated for completion in October.

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