Damaged reservoir leaves St. George Island waiting on water

Feb 10, 2017

St. George Island
Credit USGS

St. George Island is waiting on an emergency water delivery after falling ice damaged the community’s reservoir on Monday.

In St. George, water is stored in a 280,000-gallon steel tank that draws from an aquifer. The reservoir isn’t insulated, so when cold winds batter the island from the north, water freezes inside the tank, usually near the top.

Mayor Pat Pletnikoff said that leaves ice hanging dangerously as the water level drops, like it did on Monday.

“The ice came crashing down and apparently crushed the water line on the inside, pinching it off and causing a huge restriction," he said. "As a result, the reservoir went dry. We’re pumping water, albeit very slowly.”

PenAir is sending a cargo plane to St. George on Wednesday with 300 gallons of drinking water. The regional carrier plans to bring another 2,000 gallons soon after.

Between those deliveries and the steady re-filling of the reservoir, Pletnikoff said the island’s 100 residents should have enough water as the city makes short-term repairs.

“I think we’ll be okay after Wednesday," he said. "There should be enough water built up in the reservoir -- sufficient to charge the lines into the community. Water should be available to our residents.”

Pletnikoff said the tank has had problems with ice for at least six years. Three winters ago, the roof nearly collapsed when heavy chunks of ice brought down several rafters. 

St. George is working to design a new reservoir with insulation through the state’s Village Safe Water program, but Pletnikoff said it’s not yet clear who will pay for the structure or when it will be built.