August 21, 2016--Ute Mountain Utes are awarded a $9 million grant for water upgrades (Durango Herald)

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe has been awarded a $9 million federal grant to upgrade its water and wastewater infrastructure in Towaoc and White Mesa. The grant, issued through rural development program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will pay for two municipal projects in Towaoc and two in White Mesa, the tribe’s satellite community in southeast Utah. “We are ecstatic and thankful for this funding because our infrastructure is in dire need of repairs and upgrades,” said Ute Mountain Ute Planning Director Bernadette Cuthair. “Maintaining these aging and outdated systems has been a real financial challenge for the tribe.” Tribe Chairman Manuel Heart said the 60-year-old water and sewer systems aren’t adequate for demand. “Our population in Towaoc is growing, and we need to bring our systems up to par to be able to handle that growth,” he said. In Towaoc, the tribe’s headquarters, $1.9 million was allocated to expand and upgrade the wastewater treatment facility. A new lagoon cell will be created, and an additional lift station installed. “This upgrade will support a new housing project south of the community,” Cuthair said. Also in Towaoc, $3.5 million was allocated for water meters for homes and to replace cast-iron piping with PVC pipes. “We will be able to better manage our limited water sources and detect leaks with this improvement,” Cuthair said. “The piping in the old housing development and government buildings is in bad shape.” In White Mesa, $1.6 million will go to installing a water-treatment plant and distribution system to provide safe drinking water. White Mesa currently draws drinking water from two wells, but one is slated for repair, Cuthair said. The tribe has expressed concerns that the nearby White Mesa uranium mill could contaminate its groundwater. To view the full article visit the Durango Herald.