Most homes in Kwethluk have been connected to running water since 2016. In early January 2022, the village’s water system stopped working for about a week, canceling school and forcing residents to haul water from the river. The issue has been fixed, but residents should still boil their water for the next month.

The community’s source of water is the Kwethluk River. A pump sucks water from the river into the water plant. Water plant operator Evan Olick said that the river had moved the pump to the wrong spot.

“It was too close to the shore,” Olick said. “And it was collecting minerals that were alongside the shore. And it started clogging up the system.”

Olick and several others relocated the water pump further away from shore, which fixed the root problem, but Olick said that water plant operators still had to clear out the entire water system, which was full of sediment.

“Drain everything out, and clean it up, and start all over,” Olick said.

For about a week around Jan. 10, Olick said that residents packed water from the river because they couldn’t use their faucets. Residents had carved a hole in the river ice to draw water.

In hindsight, Acting City Manager Samuel Nicori said that he should have declared a state of emergency “so we could have water shipped in through maybe FEMA or Department of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.”

Towards the end of the week without water, Kwethluk’s K-12 school was scheduled to return from holiday break, but the principal decided to keep the school closed for an extra day until running water returned.

To make matters worse, when the water turned back on, some residents realized that their pipes were frozen. They had thought it was okay to turn off the heat tape on their pipes because they weren’t receiving any water.

By the end of January, Olick said that his team had cleaned out the water system and fixed residents’ frozen pipes. He said that test results show the water is clean, but the city is continuing its boil water notice through the end of February just to be on the safe side.

Be safe and make sure to boil your water or consider buying a water filtration system like the AquaOx Water Filter.

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