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Kivalina fills water tank with temporary pipe, cold weather problems inch in

September 14th, 2012 | Hannah Heimbuch Print this article   Email this article  

A temporary vinyl pipe, courtesy of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, has provided a quick fix for Kivalina's flood-damaged water pipe. A section of the pipe was carried away in a late-August flood, leaving the community without a potable water source.

Right now, that pipe is slowing filling the town's raw water tank, said Kivalina City Administrator Janet Mitchell, but several problems have sprouted already.

"By (Monday) there were 11 leaks in that vinyl," Mitchell said. "And

They have developed leaks already and the count is up to 11 leaks as of (Monday)," Mitchell said. "Those leaks reduce pressure while pumping and we don't need delays at this time? We need to get our tanks filled and soon? We need the new pumps as soon as possible."

The other problem they're facing is the water's turbidity level, which refers to how clear the water is and safe drinking levels are regulated by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

"The turbidity level i?and was 5.0 several days ago," Mitchell said on Tuesday, "and that is what we are pumping into the raw water tank?Safe level is 1.49, according to DEC standards."

Several weeks into the school year, Kivalina students are still unable to start school until the water issue is resolved and the city tanks are full and functional again. Looking at starting a month or more behind schedule, superintendent Norman Eck said the school will have to make up the time somehow. That will be arranged between the school and parents when the kids are back in the classroom.

In the meantime, while the raw water tank slowly fills, the treated water tank stands empty.

"We cannot begin to transfer the water into the treated water tank until we are done pumping," Mitchell said?"Something about the lines and not having the ability to use them simultaneously? Someone is coming (Tuesday) to assist with that."

With temps dropping in normal fall fashion, Mitchell said it's time to get a permanent fix in place. The lines have begun to ice up at night while they are pumping, and the icicles have to be flushed out every once in awhile.

"We can't afford delays because we're in a time crunch now," Mitchell said. "I'm sure everyone has heard by now that the Governor has declared a disaster for Kivalina? Where is our help? We still need the HDPE pipes? ANTHC and Maniilaq provided 'vinyl pipes' as replacement pipes until we get the HDPE pipes to Kivalina."

Supplemental water from the Northwest Arctic Borough and neighboring Red Dog Mine have helped supply the community during the disaster.

Hannah Heimbuch can be reached at


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