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Gambell Sewer Main Remains Unfixed After Months; Bypass in Place

A sewer main in Gambell that was damaged in September remains unfixed heading into winter. A bypass is in place and can be winterized if immediate repair of the line is impossible.

According to Gambell Utility Clerk Ramona Tungiyan, the main was damaged over two months ago during work to repair a leak in the wastewater system. The city requested assistance from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Remote Maintenance Worker Program, which provides training and emergency support for rural water and sewer facilities.

Bryant Koonooka, Remote Maintenance Worker for the Norton Sound region, traveled to Gambell, his hometown, to assist with the repairs. He says the damage to the sewer main occurred when the operator of an excavator inadvertently pulled the main from underground in September.

A high volume of groundwater prevented a quick repair to the main. With a bypass in place and sewer service restored, Tungiyan says the decision was made to delay repair to the main until the groundwater began to freeze, in the hope that would make removing the water easier.

However, as temperatures dropped, workers in Gambell were faced with a new challenge: neither of the city’s two excavators are currently operational. A replacement starter motor for one of the excavators is now on its way to Gambell, and Tungiyan is still hopeful the main will be repaired quickly.

If not, she says, the bypass will be reinforced with stronger material for the winter, and repairing the main will have to wait until at least May of next year.


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