George McGraw – Founder, DigDeep
Since 2018, IWSH has partnered with DigDeep’s Navajo Water Project to solve domestic water and sanitation issues on behalf of Native Americans in remote areas of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Community Plumbing Challenge projects and follow-up outreach activities have been hosted in Baca-Prewitt Chapter (NM), and Naatsisaan Chapter (AZ/UT).
In response to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, through 2020-21 IWSH and DigDeep have collaborated with the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada (UA) and Ferguson for the inaugural Wash Station Challenge. IWSH and DigDeep teams developed two initial mobile wash station prototypes, for which Milwaukee School of Engineering students led a range of testing and troubleshooting activities involving the school community and general public during the winter months in Wisconsin. Working to this finalized design, ten participating UA locals throughout the United States assembled the wash stations through June-July 2021, which provide a month’s worth of non-potable water for daily hand-washing and general hygiene for a family of six. Through the remainder of 2021, these newly-built wash stations are being shipped and deployed to designated DigDeep staging points across the Navajo Nation. DigDeep teams will deliver, install and maintain them at sites that will initially include community health service facilities, chapter houses and farms.
Water quality issues have long plagued the approximately 500-person city of Nome, Texas, and they were exacerbated when Hurricane Harvey damaged Nome’s water treatment plant in August 2017; winter storm conditions in early 2021 made them even worse. As a result, IWSH and nearby UA Local 68 teamed up to launch the two-phase “Safer Water for Nome” pilot project. For the first phase, 25 journeymen plumbers — nine of whom are contractors — gained certification in ASSE 12060/12061: Professional Qualifications Standard for Water Management and Infection Control Risk Assessment for Building Systems. Phase two consisted of the newly certified journeymen conducting free water quality risk assessments for Nome residents. UA Local 68 held a town hall meeting to educate residents and invite them to sign up for free assessments, of which two rounds have been held.
Education & Training
IWSH and Navajo Technical University are partnering to launch a new three-semester Plumbing Certificate Program that will teach techniques and theories for residential, commercial, industrial applications, providing opportunities for students to test their skills via hands-on lab work. The program will be housed in a new lab at the NTU Instructional Site in Kirtland, New Mexico. Students who complete the program will receive advanced standing in the selection process for an apprenticeship with UA Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 412 (Albuquerque). The course is set to launch in Fall 2022.