Section 302 (b)2 of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (P.L. 94-437) authorizes operation and maintenance (O&M) technical assistance in the form of
- financial and technical assistance to Indian tribes and communities in the establishment, training, and equipping of utility organizations to operate and maintain Indian sanitation facilities;
- ongoing technical assistance and training in the management of utility organizations which will operate and maintain sanitation facilities; and
- O&M assistance for emergency repairs to tribal sanitation facilities when necessary to avoid a health hazard.
Upon completion of a project, the facilities constructed are either owned by or transferred to the tribe, individual homeowner, or other responsible non-Federal entity. Often, construction projects include funds for training operators, initial start-up, and for equipment needed for maintenance.
SFC provides technical assistance to the new owners of the facilities and provides training for the proper operation and maintenance of the new facilities. For example, tribal operators are instructed on the operation and maintenance of chlorination and fluoridation equipment, pumps, motor control systems, sewage collection systems, lift stations, and wastewater treatment facilities. The SFC Program also provides technical assistance to tribes in the development of tribal utility organizations for the operation, maintenance, and management of community water and sewer facilities. This assistance may include the provision of equipment and tools for the utility organizations (as part of a project) and development of a rate structure to determine appropriate customer water and sewer fees. It may also include O&M manuals, as-built drawings, and technical handbooks.
IHS sanitation facilities construction monies cannot be used for O&M assistance (e.g., to pay operator wages or electric power bills) except when providing training, technical assistance, and/or equipment in conjunction with a construction project for facilities provided under that project. However, O&M training also can be provided with program funding. Often IHS uses program funds for classroom training of operators from multiple tribes. It also provides O&M technical assistance at the site of the sanitation facility.