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Storms postpone Kivalina's school year

Posted: September 3, 2012 - 11:01pm

ANCHORAGE — The school year has yet to begin in the northwest Alaska village of Kivalina because August storms left the school and teacher housing without clean water.

School should have started two weeks ago, but storms fed a river that serves as the water source for the school and washeteria, bringing the water to its highest levels on record.

Torrents scattered and sank pipes that feed the local water plant, and the river sediment thickened as well, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Schools superintendent Norman Eck canceled classes. He said he hopes to see the school open by Oct. 1.

“We have not yet decided on what our school calendar will be, but it could be that we end up having to have school six days a week,” he said.

Meanwhile, emergency crews plan to begin repair work this week using replacement pipes provided by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

The city of Kivalina and the Northwest Arctic Borough declared the water shortage a disaster in mid-August, and they are asking the governor to do the same to unlock state money for the repair effort.

Kivalina residents still have rainwater, as well as donated bottled water, to drink. Schoolhouses need treated water and won’t open until the problem is fixed, the school district said.

The state had not decided as of Friday whether to make a disaster declaration in Kivalina, said Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management spokesman Jeremy Zidek.

Help is already on its way from Maniilaq, the regional health and social service agency that along with the Northwest Arctic Borough and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium are teaming up with Kivalina to begin repairs this week, according to Matthew Dixon, the consortium’s vice president of operations.

Dixon said the health consortium is buying replacement piping with emergency funds.

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