Chignik Lagoon is without any stored water

Aug 29, 2019

UPDATE: Packers Creek is running thin. Village Administrator Michelle Anderson shares this week's status of  Chignik Lagoon's water situation.

 

Credit Alex Hager

Chignik Lagoon is in the midst of a water shortage.

The community’s 150 residents have been on a boil water notice since July 2. As of Aug. 22, they had 5,000 gallons of drinkable water remaining.

Village Administrator Michelle Anderson said that as of Tuesday, the wells are completely dry.

“Currently, [we’re] having to pull water directly into a fire hydrant, to provide a little bit of water for the community during parts of the day,” Anderson said. “We don’t have any water that’s being stored, so those folks that live up on elevation, [on] hills, don’t have any water at all.”

Chignik Lagoon is temporarily using Packers Creek, which runs through the village, as a water source. Anderson said the creek is low due to a lack of rain, and they fear it may empty.

“We’re hoping that we’re past the dry spell and that won’t happen,” she said. “But we need some good rains to feel comfortable, but we’re able to use Packers Creek a little bit.”

That lack of rain is contributing to the village’s water shortage, but other problems run deeper. Water pumps used by the village to pull water from Packers Creek are broken, and the village is waiting for additional parts before they begin repairs.

The creek is also not a clean water source, and the water distribution system is in need of repairs — but that cannot happen until the Alaska Energy Authority looks into the problem.

Environmental specialist Leah Vansandt, who works for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, said several issues are contributing to the lack of clean, accessible water.

“They had a lot of leaks in their distribution system,” she explained. “They also had their well source unable to meet the demand. Initially, they were hooking up to the creek, which, as far as our section is concerned, the drinking water is an unimproved source. They were put on a boil water notice for that.”

Anderson said they are focusing on what they can do now to fix the issues.

“At this point, we’re desperately just trying to get water into the water tank so that we have pressure in the lines and are able to actually do some repairs down here,” she said. “That’s just short-term goals. Long term will obviously be to get funding procured and start working on designs and construction, which we’ve been doing as well.”

DEC program manager Heather Murray said DEC is helping the village seek out federal funding to fix the wells and distribution lines.

“But even if they’re able to get funding, they believe they need new wells,” she said. “And that’s the thing: It’s not an instantaneous quick fix, if you will.”

The Samaritan’s Purse is planning to fly 4,000 gallons of water into the village soon. The Alaska DEC, Bristol Bay Health Corp. and Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium are also helping the village get the resources they need. The Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is also aware of the situation and is in talks to determine the level of the crisis and what kind of assistance the community may receive from the state.