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Water leak closes stretch of 15th Ave. indefinitely

Tegan Hanlon
Mike Lewis

A water leak that caused water to seep onto East 15th Avenue early Friday has closed the icy road from Lake Otis Parkway to Orca Street until further notice, according to city officials.

A geotechnical engineer on Monday will look into the cause of the sudden outpouring of water from the hill near Merrill Field, said Mark Madden, manager of engineering and planning with Solid Waste Services. Until then, traffic will be detoured around that portion of the road, which is partly covered in muddy ice.

Madden said Saturday that it's too soon to say what caused the problem. He speculated it could be caused by a buildup of underground water that froze after a week of frigid temperatures, then gushed onto the street. Or, he said, it could have something to do with utility crews installing units on the slope north of the street over the summer. Or maybe it was caused by heavy rainfall Anchorage received in August and September, Madden said.

"It's kind of a little puzzle," he said. "And we'll try to figure out what's going on and find a solution."

Madden said reports starting coming in around 2 a.m. Friday after someone spotted a large amount of water spilling from the hill where Sitka Street intersects East 15th Avenue. A street maintenance crew blocked the westbound lane where the water was quickly turning into ice.

By midmorning the leak had stopped, Madden said, but the ice remained. By noon, the city had closed all of East 15th Avenue from Lake Otis to Orca, coinciding with the freezing rain that coated Anchorage and the rest of Southcentral Alaska in ice.

Madden said that to his knowledge the hill next to Merrill Field has never experienced this kind of water leak until now. The hill is the site of the old Anchorage city landfill, which operated from the 1930s until 1987, when it reached its capacity, Madden said. There's no liner in the landfill; it's covered by soil, he said.

"It's kind of a surprise because the slope has been pretty stable," Madden said.

Madden said the water that leaked hasn't been tested.

"We're not sure how it was transported or how it got transported; for now it's groundwater," Madden said.

He said water from under the landfill is pumped out and tested regularly, and it's "fairly clean water." When the road will reopen?

"Well, that depends on what we find," Madden said. "If the fix is obvious, it may take a couple of days. If it's not, it may take a bit longer."

Reach Tegan Hanlon at thanlon@adn.com or 257-4589.

 


By TEGAN HANLON
thanlon@adn.com