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Kotlik residents head home, but water supplies low

Posted: November 19, 2013 - 2:40pm

BETHEL — Storm-ravaged Kotlik is running low on water as crews try to reconnect the western Alaska village's damaged water system.

A huge surge of water damaged water and sewer lines in the recent storm, and officials estimate the community only has a few days' worth of stored water left, KYUK (http://is.gd/8vUY3r) reported Monday.

"The water pump is not in the river yet," Kotlik City Manager Lori Mike said. "We have no way of pumping more water until that pump is fixed."

Residents are using emergency water supplies while the Alaska Rural Utilities Cooperative works on system repairs. Bottled water has been donated by several organizations, including the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corp. and the American Red Cross of Alaska.

Mike said 14 homes were damaged. She said some people are now leaving the school, which had served as an emergency shelter. Others stayed with relatives.

But they're returning to homes without heat, she said.

"Their source of heat is the Toyo stove — it's damaged and cannot be turned on. So that's our main issue is getting heat in their homes," Mike said.

She said there are other concerns about mold and insulation damage.

The main sewage-discharge line also was damaged by the surge of water and ice during the storm, which struck the area earlier this month. For toilets, residents have been using "honey buckets," 5-gallon pails lined with garbage bags.

The damage to the sewage system created a mess and a safety hazard.

"There is raw sewage on the ground, and there's water all over," Mike said. "When springtime comes, it's going to be unhealthy. Kotlik is very marshy, and the water is going to be spreading all over."

Red Cross representatives are lending a hand at the village.

Gov. Sean Parnell on Saturday declared coastal western Alaska areas ravaged by storms state disaster zones after holding a town-hall meeting in Kotlik — one of the hardest-hit communities.

A series of storms battered the areas earlier in November with powerful winds, strong seas and freezing rain and snow.

The governor's office says that the declaration opens access to state disaster relief funds to repair infrastructure and some homes.

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