Emergency Response Officials Heading to Kivalina

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by Natalie Travis

(Anchorage, AK)  The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management says it has dispatched a team of two of its emergency response specialists to Kivalina today. The move comes after officials received a disaster declaration from the city and the Northwest Arctic Borough over the weekend.

Right now the specialists are in Kotzebue meeting with Northwest Arctic Borough officials and school district officials. DHSEM says- they have with them a representative with the Department of Environmental Conservation and are also working with local government experts. The state is assisting in restoring drinkable water to Kivalina and to address a breached landfill, the borough lists financial issues within the city, record rainfall, and minor flooding as causes, according to reports.

Kivalina is located down the Northwest Coast of Alaska, near the Chukchi Sea about 120 miles above the Arctic Circle and the city is in a pinch.

"Our landfill is an open landfill, so is the sewage pit, and when the water got high, it kind of carried some of the waste into our lagoon," Janet Mitchell, Administrator for
Kivalina City Council said.  Mitchell says it's still raining pretty hard, but water levels are lower. However, previous flooding might have contaminated some low ground areas.

"We're thinking that some of the waste, got into that area and that is a favorite berry picking spot for a whole lot of people," said Mitchell.

"DEC will certainly be taking a look at that while they are out there, right now the community does have a boil water notice that was issued by DEC, folks are using bottled water or collecting rain water," said Jeremy Zidek, Public Information Officer for the state Division of Homeland Security.

Both water tanks are empty according to the city. Reports say the school in Kivalina is unable to reopen until the drinking water situation is resolved.

 "Right now there is some temporary section of hose, and some hard sections of hose, they'll be looking at to see if those damaged sections can be repaired or if it's a case where they need to bring in some different ones," Zidek said.

With all this rain, the city says turbidity levels are high, and it needs to go down before pumping. It also needs to be done before the salmon arrive end of August, beginning of September. Mitchell says--they usually start filling water tanks in early July, but were unable to due to lack of funds.

The multi-agency assessment team plans to reach the city tomorrow.

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