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St. Michael water system improvements begin

November 27, 2017

In January, the St. Michael community water and sewer system froze. With 10 miles of frozen aboveground pipes, it was obvious that recovering and repairing the water and sewer system would be difficult.

Local operators, supported by ANTHC’s Alaska Rural Utility Collaborative (ARUC), started thawing water and sewer mains immediately in January. Unfortunately, thawing the entire 10 miles of water and sewer lines would not be possible until early summer.

With assistance from ANTHC, the community is beginning the work to repair their water system and make system improvements to prevent freeze-up again. This recovery task is expected to consist of three phases. Phase 1 involved thawing the system to allow water/sewer service throughout the summer and fall of 2017. Phase 2 involves short-term improvements to allow water/sewer service in the winter of 2017/2018, while phase 3 consists of long-term improvements, such as releveling pipes and utilidors and upsizing heat exchangers in 2018.

The entire community, along with ANTHC, the Norton Sound Health Corporation, the Bering Straits Housing Authority and other regional partners, worked to provide water haul containers and honey buckets to St. Michael residents last winter. Local water operators also improvised water and sewer service at the health clinic and city washeteria so that health care, laundry, and showering could continue.

In early spring, local water operators and ANTHC were also working on thawing out the water system and making emergency repairs to it. Phase 1 was completed with all residents receiving water/sewer service again in June. Meanwhile, the city, Tribe and ANTHC also began searching for funds to allow completion of the costly second and third phases of recovery.

The community recently received grants from both the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation. These grants will fund phase 2 and phase 3 of the recovery. Phase 2 has begun, with repair parts recently arriving in St. Michael. Installation of parts will begin later this week and will continue through fall.

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