Safety improvements planned near water pipe along Seward Hwy

Published: Jul. 10, 2017 at 4:28 PM AKDT
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Safety improvements are being planned for the area of Milepost 109 of the Seward Highway, a popular spot where people stop to collect water flowing from a plastic pipe in the rock face.

"I just heard it was really fresh, and when you can (go) right to the source and literally get water at the source, why buy it bottled?" said Christel Hazard, who stopped Monday afternoon to fill her water bottle at the pipe.

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities spokesperson Shannon McCarthy said plans are being finalized to place signs encouraging people to park at the pull off, on the west side of the highway, instead of along the shoulder of the road, and to beware of falling rock.

McCarthy said the water collection is consider to be a recreational activity.

"We actually try to support all recreational uses," McCarthy said. "It's not necessarily in the department's mission to discourage one recreation use over another. We don't want to discourage people from recreating, but we really want them to do it safely."

, which sent five people to the hospital. Anchorage Police Department spokesman M.J. Thim said there was no indication in the accident report, as to whether anyone involved in the wreck was stopping to get water from the pipe, or was trying to avoid someone who was.

Regardless, the co-chair of a citizens group called

, which has advocated for safety improvements on the Seward Highway, said it may be time to consider closing the water hole, which was drilled years ago to relieve hydraulic pressure behind the rock.

Diana Livingston said, "We all have looked at that activity forever and said, 'That is an accident waiting to happen.' And I guess the miracle is it hasn't happen before now."

Frequent users of the water pipe say it can be done safely.

Andrew Cornelius of Kenai said he and his wife, Aliona, stop at the water pipe once a month to fill several water bottles.

"As long as people are careful, I don't see why they would need to plug it up," Cornelius said. "Accidents happen, that's inevitable with everyone around. Just be safe. Take your time."

D.O.T. says plans are being finalized for the new safety signs, and they should be installed sometime this fall.