Interviews from the Field: Native Village of Ekwok

Name of your Project: Native Village of Ekwok Sustainable Tribal Solid Waste Program

Is your ANA funding for one, two or three years? Three years.

How did your project come about – how was it determined?
The old landfill created an unsafe and unhealthy environment for the residents of Ekwok. Once the old landfill was closed and the new landfill opened with new management, it was determined that we needed to take a comprehensive approach to effectively manage and operate our solid waste in an environmentally, socially, and financially self-sustaining manner.

Who was instrumental in the development of the project?
Environmental Department Staff, and the three entities; Ekwok Village Council, Ekwok Natives Limited and City of Ekwok.

How did you address bringing together (synthesizing) ideas?
By holding joint meetings on our Memorandum of Agreement on Solid and Hazardous Waste with the three entities. By holding public meetings, as well as community meetings, to gather ideas and input for our Comprehensive Long Range Plan and our Long-Range Environmental Plan (ETEP).

Who are the key project staff members?
Project Manager, Landfill Operator, Equipment Operator.

Where is your project located, what Tribes/service are do you serve?
Our project is located in Ekwok, Alaska overlooking the Nushagak River in the Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska. Ekwok is approximately 43 miles northeast of Dillingham and 285 miles southwest of Anchorage. The Native Village of Ekwok is a Federally Recognized Sovereign Tribe. The Ekwok Village Council is the governing body that serves the Tribe and provides governmental services and needs for the Tribe.

What are your main project objectives/ goals of your project?
To build a self-sustaining tribal solid waste program for the 115 residents of Ekwok that will ensure safe landfill practices and minimize negative environmental impacts.

How has your project benefited the community overall (impact)?
Our project benefited and impacted our community by hiring three new staff to operate and manage our new landfill site and to set up and collect service fees; establish ordinances to regulate and enforce solid waste management; and closed the old, unsafe and unhealthy landfill. This project also benefited the community by providing and using best management practices for our landfill, and the responsibility for proper landfill management and disposal by trained workers. By having the new landfill practices created and enforced by Ekwok’s Tribal Solid Waste Program the entire community will benefit from a cleaner community, cleaner water, and a lower likelihood of injury or disease from hazardous materials leaking into the water supply, contaminated subsistence resources, and/or encountering dangerous objects or scavenging wildlife and vermin at the landfill.

What are your future plans to continue your efforts?
Continue to teach proper disposal of garbage by separating and recycling. Develop and enforce ordinances for landfill service fee collection, set up consequences for non-compliant person (s), enforce illegal dumping, and construct a green building to store household hazardous material for reuse as well as other items for reuse and recycling. To always look at other ways of self-sustaining our new landfill.

What advice would you offer to someone planning or implementing a project similar to yours?
Attend trainings and set up a network system to learn all that you can from others who have gone before you to see what to do and what to avoid. Make sure you educate your community well before hand, so that all will be on board when you have to make that change.

April 25, 2017
Last Reviewed: July 15, 2019