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Western Alaska community without water after weekend fire

Fire burns building in Tuluksak
Fire burns building in Tuluksak(Richelle Gregory)
Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 2:58 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A community in Western Alaska has declared an emergency disaster after a fire destroyed a laundromat on Saturday.

People in Tuluksak are now without water, according to the Tuluksak Native Community Council president.

“We need all the help we can get,” says Middy Peter, council president.

He says donations are coming in from outside sources and they are expecting water from Anchorage and Bethel.

Angela Alexie, the Tuluksak council vice president, said the building was one of the primary sources of water for the village. Peter says some people are getting water from the frozen Kuskokwim and he says there is a COVID-19 outbreak “on top of everything else.”

The council is in contact with the state and they hope to get help with the disaster declaration.

He says if people are interested in donating they can contact the council by calling 907-695-6420 or emailing tuluksak99679@gmail.com.

State officials are meeting with various agencies to try to determine a plan of response for getting the community water.

Carrie Bohan, facilities program manager with the Department of Environmental Conservation Water Division, says they work in close coordination with the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corp. and provide a grant to YKHC for remote maintenance workers.

“The remote maintenance workers from YKHC have been out to access the situation,” Bohan told Alaska’s News Source on Wednesday morning. “And we’re going to be meeting this afternoon with a group of folks, including various funding agencies and technical assistance providers to start working on a tentative plan for long-term and long term response.”

Bohan says the Village Safe Water program run by the DEC also works with funding agencies including EPA, USDA Rural Development and Indian Health Service.

“In the long term we will be working with that group of folks to figure out how to restore a minimal level of service and how to leverage the various funding sources to make that happen, that’s sort of the long term plan,” says Bohan. “And we’ll be supporting the regional effort in the near term on how to provide some improved service in the short term.”

Bohan says the washeteria that burned also housed a water treatment plant for well water that was then piped to the school, the teacher housing and an office building, it also was a watering point where people gathered water.

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