Pilot Station has been under a boil water notice for three weeks, since Feb. 25, after pressure dropped in its water system. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is looking at the issue and has drafted a preliminary report on how to fix the problem.
For the water system to be considered sanitary, it needs to reach 20 PSI. At this pressure, if the system were to get a leak, that pressure would keep the system from sucking in dirt and bacteria. Pilot Station’s water system fell below that pressure in late February, and has stayed below it since.
The village’s water plant sits on higher ground than the buildings it serves. According to the tribal health consortium’s report, the water system was designed to maintain pressure through the assistance of gravity; the system does not include pumps to boost the water pressure. Instead, the water system was designed to maintain pressure by sending water down pipes to significantly lower elevations than the water plant.
That system worked, but over the years the town has expanded. New homes and the school were built on land at nearly the same elevation as the water plant. Now, the system’s gravity differential is not enough to maintain the pressure needed to keep the water clean.
ANTHC has listed possible options for fixing the problem, including installing pumps and automation equipment in the water treatment plant and replacing a portion of the water pipes. ANTHC estimates that the project would cost $4.5 million dollars, and that funding would not be received until 2022 at the earliest.
In consultation with the State of Alaska, ANTHC is due to release a final report on the issue later this month.