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Rural Alaska

Remote Alaska island community without water after ice damages reservoir

  • Author: Annie Zak
  • Updated: February 7, 2017
  • Published February 7, 2017

The remote Alaska island community of St. George was almost entirely without water Tuesday after cold weather took a toll on the village's main reservoir over the weekend, according to the city's mayor.

The reservoir was damaged when the temperature dipped Sunday and ice built up inside, later "crashing down" and "damaging pipes for incoming and outgoing water," Mayor Pat Pletnikoff said.

There's currently almost no water for the town's sewage systems, or for bathing, drinking and cooking, Pletnikoff said.

"Most of our residents have very little water, maybe a few drops in the sink but that's it," he said. "Toilet bowls are useless in the homes."

Crews are working to get a second reservoir 5 miles away up and running, but that will only help with supplying drinking water for the community of about 80 people, located in the Pribilof Islands 250 miles northwest of Unalaska.

Residents will have to travel to the second reservoir to fill containers with water until the main reservoir can be repaired, which Pletnikoff said he expects will happen in about two days.

PenAir is planning to fly nearly 300 gallons of water to St. George on Wednesday, the airline said in a statement.

"We are here to support St. George in whatever way we can," said PenAir CEO Danny Seybert.

This isn't the first time the reservoir has had issues, Pletnikoff said. Ice buildup also "brought down a good portion of the roof over the reservoir" a few years ago.

He said the colder-than-usual weather and wind chill contributed to the problem earlier this week. But the exact temperature isn't clear because it "looks like the temperature sensor was down" for the island community on Sunday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Luis Ingram.

Pletnikoff hopes the reservoir can eventually be replaced entirely.

"It affects the whole community, from our clinic to our school," he said. "It's something we're trying to address."

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