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Unalakleet Finds Additional Water Pipe Break, Waits as Tank Refills

Landscape of rural Alaska town on a sunny summer day
A sunny day in Unalakleet, Alaska. Photo: Maddie Winchester, KNOM.

Unalakleet is still on boil water notice as the community grapples with a water pipe break that was discovered around a week and a half ago.

According to City Manager Davida Hanson, another leak on the isolated FAA loop was found Tuesday morning, between the Bering Strait School District (BSSD) office and the Unalakleet school. BSSD is now putting in place an over-ground bypass line across the road between the two buildings. Hanson says that bypass pipe will remain there until the summer, when the ground thaws and permanent work can be done.

The search for the first leak on the FAA loop is on hold while the tank re-fills, Hanson says. As of this morning, the tank is at 3.25 feet, still far below normal levels. Once the tank has more water, the city can turn the pressure back up. Then, the flowing water should help indicate exactly where the pipe broke.

For now, she says, the city is running just enough water through all the pipes in town to keep them from freezing. It’s turning up water pressure to homes on the FAA loop for about an hour, twice a day, for limited bathing and cooking. But Hanson says the water may be brown because it’s coming from the low tank.

No water is being pulled from the slough near the community. That option was considered as a backup plan earlier this week, before the BSSD leak was found.

Hanson says Unalakleet will likely be on boil water notice for at least several weeks. Even once the tank fills up enough and the leak is repaired, the Department of Environmental Conservation will have to take readings and approve water quality.

Image at top: A sunny day in Unalakleet (Photo: Maddie Winchester, KNOM).

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