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North Slope Borough identifies potential drinking water sources for Point Lay

Industrial drums appeared recently in a lake used by the community of Point Lay for its...
Industrial drums appeared recently in a lake used by the community of Point Lay for its drinking water, prompting residents' concerns that the water may be contaminated. Photo courtesy of Roscoe Rexford. (KTUU)
Published: Aug. 10, 2016 at 6:24 PM AKDT
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The North Slope Borough is working to identify future drinking water sources for the village of Point Lay on Alaska’s Arctic coast after its water source drained this past week.

Mayor Harry Brower, Jr., said in a phone interview Wednesday that some lakes have been identified as potential future water sources, but that the village has enough clean drinking water for now to last them through the winter and next summer.

The lake that had provided the village with drinking water was overtaken by the Kokolik River on Friday, August 5,

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The Borough is looking into identifying where the drums came from and what they may have contained; answers to that are expected by the end of this week. But Brower says the drinking water that had already been treated at the water plant was tested by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation earlier this summer, and was found to be safe to drink.

The drained lake is about a hundred feet from the river, Brower said, and he noted that it had already appeared to be susceptible to erosion. “The tundra there was getting thinner and thinner each spring, with small erosion here going on, and another year later, even worse,” Brower said. “So that's my observation that it was susceptible for breaching at any time, and then this occurred.”

The lake had served as the drinking water source for the community for many years. Brower wasn’t sure exactly how long. The community moved to its current location from barrier islands more susceptible to flooding and erosion themselves in 1974.

Brower said that some of the lakes that have been identified as potential new sources for drinking water for Point Lay are between six and eight miles from the community, but that the current lake is already between three and four miles away.

He said the Borough plans to work with community members on the best solution for drinking water, and that in addition to a new water source, the Borough is hoping to replace old water lines for better reliability, and for potential future population growth.