Municipality exploring options for Eagle River water fill site
A reliable source of water for hundreds of Chugiak-Eagle River residents may soon run dry, but city officials are committed to keeping the water flowing.
The Municipality of Anchorage is currently looking at options for what to do with a water fill station on Fire House Road in the event the adjacent fire station building must be destroyed. Built in 1979, the old fire station suffered damage in the November 2018 earthquake and is currently “red-tagged,” or unfit to occupy. The building’s uncertain status has put the status of the water fill site in jeopardy.
“Because the tee providing bulk water to the outbuilding is located in a building that is unsafe for occupancy and is under consideration for demolition, it is necessary to evaluate alternatives to provide non-commercial bulk water to area residents,” wrote the Anchorage Water & Wastewater Utility in a memorandum on the issue provided to the Star by Eagle River assemblyman Fred Dyson.
If the old fire station — which is currently used for storage — can be repaired, the fill site would remain as-is. If the building is destroyed, the memo lays out several alternatives for the fill site, which the municipality estimates is regularly used by between 150 and 200 people. Among the possible alternatives would be creating an alternate fill site, building a new station in the same location or partnering with a private contractor to provide water service.
A municipal survey of fill site users found most would like the facility to remain in the same location. Chugiak’s Anneka Baker said she uses the fill site about every other day to supplement her family’s needs.
“We have a well, but it doesn’t recover fast enough,” she said.
The muni could also decide to discontinue the service entirely, but the survey found many users said the free water service is “critical” and that they would have no other source of water without it.
People have been getting free water from the fire station since shortly after it was built, according to the municipality. The water-specific outbuilding where water is now dispensed was built about 15 years ago, thanks to the help of Dyson, who said he supports keeping the water available in some capacity.
“I’ve even used it myself,” he said Tuesday.
The municipality estimates the fill station dispenses about 1.5 million gallons of water annually at a cost of around $8,000. Were the service to go away, Baker said families like hers would be impacted.
“We have a couple options, we can try to drill another well, but that’s kind of an expensive gamble,” she said. “Or the other is just conserve water and go to a laundromat.”
Baker said her family would get by without the service, but she’s hopeful an alternative can be found if the existing site goes away.
“It’s a big switch,” she said. “They’re going to have a lot of stinky people running around.”
No decisions will be made about the fill site until the municipality decides whether or not the old fire station building can be repaired.
Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call 257-4274