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North Pole to Extend Water System to Moose Creek Due to Groundwater Contamination

Fairbanks North Star Borough

Work will begin next month on a 30-million-dollar project to extend North Pole’s municipal water system to Moose Creek, where residents can no longer use their wells because the groundwater’s been contaminated by a chemical compound that came from Eielson Air Force Base.

North Pole Mayor Mike Welch says the City Council considered four bidders for the water-system expansion project in a Jan. 30 meeting, before choosing HC Contractors.

“We actually had a special meeting just so we wouldn’t have to wait ‘til February 3rd, because time was of the essence,” he said. “They wanted to get started on this.”

Welch says work will begin next month and be completed by fall of next year. He says so far about 185 people and a few businesses around Moose Creek have so far signed up to be connected to the North Pole water system.

“That’s a big increase of customers,” he said.

The mayor says those new customers will boost the total number of homes and businesses hooked-up to the municipal water system to about 1,300. And he says people in Moose Creek can still sign-up for the service.

“They need to contact the director of City Services, Mr. Bill Butler,” Welch said.

The Pentagon is paying for the nearly $30 million project because the substance that contaminated the groundwater beneath Moose Creek came from Eielson Air Force Base. The perflourinated chemical compound called PFAS likely came from the use of firefighting foam at the base.

Credit FNSB
North Pole's utility's Moose Creek water-system distribution system boundaries encompass areas where PFAS contamination has been detected in the area's groundwater.

Welch says the Air Force supported bringing-in water from North Pole in part because the city has already expanded its system to residents affected by groundwater contamination from another source – the old North Pole Refinery, which leaked an industrial solvent called sulfolane.

“We were the ones that were chosen as the best, capable entity to provide the water because we had the experience taking care of the sulfolane project,” he said.

The mayor says North Pole is more than halfway done with expanding the system to parts of town affected by the sulfolane contamination. He says that project more than doubled the number of municipal water customers, from 540 to about 1,100. And he says all the new customers should help keep the price of city water service stable.

“Economies of scale will help keep the cost consistent – or even go slightly down,” he said.

But Welch says the city may have to add another maintenance worker or two in the years ahead to respond to problems that may occur in the expanded water system, which after the Moose Creek project will include about 51 miles of pipe.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.