Chiniak Water Tapped Out

Jacob Resneck/KMXT

Some households in Chiniak are facing a water shortage after the school district shut off a spigot that had been some people’s only water source.

The water was turned off Wednesday after the district had been advised by the state Department of Environmental Conservation that providing public water would require the district to chemically treat the water, said Scott Williams, the school’s director of operations. The water is currently filtered and treating it would likely cost the district between $10,000 and $20,000 a year, he said.

It’s not clear how many households were dependent on the water that had run from the school to a spigot outside the community tsunami shelter. Some residents have catchment systems others are said to completely rely on hauling buckets to their homes.

Chiniak resident John Miller has a catchment system that harnesses rainwater but says recent cold weather had reduced its flow and he’d been among a half-dozen households that regularly drew water from the spigot.

Williams said the school district hadn’t been aware that so many people relied on the system. "We had no indication," he said.

A videoconference held between officials from the school district, borough and some community members Wednesday ended with all parties saying they’re looking for positive solutions. Miller remarked that the meeting "went very well."

Borough Manager Rick Gifford says the borough is consulting with the DEC to see what legal options are available to provide water in the short-term. Other long-term solutions include drilling a deepwater well for the community and establishing a service area for the community. But all sides agree that won’t happen any time soon, especially while the ground is frozen and too hard for digging.

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