Tuluksak water leak repaired after months without running water

The Western Alaska village of Tuluksak from the air. (Olivia Ebertz/KYUK)

June 30 was the first time in almost five months that Tuluksak residents did not have to haul water from the community water plant.

“They found the leak that was in the community. They were able to fix that, the water leak, the main water leak, and they were able to come and find the leak on the school side and get those repaired,” Tuluksak Principal Kary DelSignore said as she wrapped up with summer school.

DelSignore said that a team from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) flew out from Bethel in early June, but was unable to find the leak. They had to come back.

“You know, we were a little depressed. going ‘oh my goodness,’ because they came out the first time and couldn’t find it. We’re like, oh, but yeah, we’re very thrilled last week with their work. YKHC came in and worked with a local crew there and they were able to get, you know, they came in and dug several places, were able to find the leak, get it repaired,” she said.  

The community still faces challenges. During breakup, Tuluksak, like many communities in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, was flooded, prompting a disaster declaration from Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

“We have a few more challenges due to the flooding and stuff that happened. So we’ve got some lift stations and things that need some repairs. Overall we are keeping our fingers crossed that, you know, they even reverse our makeshift water supply that’s going from the school over to teacher housing, but it’s still operational at this time. So what they need to do is go back and reverse that so we can get all of the houses now hooked up to water,” DelSignore said.

Earlier this past year, the governor also issued a water disaster declaration on Feb. 24 in Tuluksak to activate the state’s public assistance program to provide emergency response resources and reimbursement for disaster costs. Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHS&EM) spokesperson Jeremy Zidek said that he’s been working with the school ever since then.

“We’ve been working with the school to reimburse them for some of their emergency protective measures, the increased costs that they incurred, hauling water from the water plant to the school and some of the equipment that was needed there. There’s also some repairs to the school, some broken water pipes and to the teachers housing that the school has submitted to DHS&EM in the state for reimbursement,” Zidek said.

YKHC declined an interview request so it is unclear who was involved in these efforts, what type of equipment was used, and if there were any other repairs associated with the leak. But they did provide an email statement saying that “YKHC is grateful for the opportunity to have been available to provide technical assistance to the community of Tuluksak in the recent repair of the water line from the community to the school.”

What is also not clear is who will pay for these repairs.

“Well YKHC hasn’t submitted any request for reimbursement at this time, but those costs could be eligible under our Public Assistance Program. We work with YKHC on a regular basis for different disasters, and they can submit those costs to us, and we’ll take a look at them and see how our program can address some of those needs,” Zidek said.

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