Residents of Kotlik are using emergency water supplies as crews attempt to reconnect the city’s water system before the storage tanks are completely empty.
The big surge of water ripped up the communities’ water and sewer lines, including the water source. At last check, they were down to just a few days of water. Lori Mike is the Kotlik City Manager.
“The water pump is not in the river yet, we have no way of pumping more water until that pump is fixed,” said Mike.
Mike says that workers from the Alaska Rural Utilities Cooperative and local operators are working as fast as they can to connect to the river. In the meantime, residents are using imported water. 35 pallets of water came in from donations with the Alaska commercial company. More water came from the Emmonak Corporation, the Red Cross, and the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation.
Mike says 14 homes were impacted with water and ice damage. Some people are now leaving the school, which served as an emergency shelter, or their relatives’ homes and returning to their damaged houses.
“Some have moved back into their homes, trying to get them heated up. The problem we’re having now with people returning to their homes is no heat. Their source of heat is the Toyo stove, it’s damaged and cannot be turned on. So that’s our main issue is getting heat in their homes,” said Mike.
There are concerns about mold and serious damage to insulation in the floors. And there’s also a broader public health risk. The water and ice surge ripped off the main sewage discharge line. Residents have been using honey buckets as backup while volunteers work to get the pipe connected back to the lagoon. Before the system could be shut off, it created a mess and a safety hazard.
“That’s our concern right there is raw sewage on the ground, and there’s water all over . When springtime comes it’s going to be unhealthy. Kotlik is very marshy, and the water is going to be spreading all over,” said Mike.
Mike says Red Cross volunteers are in town and more should be on the way. She is working to set up a way to accept donations of warm winter clothes for the displaced families.