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Saint George, Alaska in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act

Release Date: 12/29/2005
Contact Information: Contact: Vaughn Blethen, EPA Region 10, Seattle, WA (206) 553-0483 Tony Brown, EPA Region 10, Seattle, WA (206) 553-1203

December 29, 2005


City of Saint George water system ordered to correct deficiencies and do required monitoring

Saint George, Alaska - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered the Saint George Water System, to correct deficiencies found at the facility, complete required monitoring of the drinking water and notify users of the violations. Violation of any terms of this federal order may result in an administrative civil penalty of up to $27,500 or a civil judicial penalty of not more than $32,500 per day of violation.

Saint George Water System is a community public water system serving approximately 200 users, located on the northeast shore of Saint George Island, the southern-most of the five islands in the Pribilof chain in the Bering Sea. The system has a history of failure to comply with Safe Drinking Water Act requirements. It was referred to EPA for formal enforcement after state officials had exhausted all available remedies to bring the system into compliance. The system is owned by the City of Saint George, not the federally-recognized tribe, the Saint George Island Traditional Council.

According to EPA officials, the Saint George Water System has repeatedly failed to correct deficiencies found during a 2004 sanitary survey (similar to an inspection), conducted by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The deficiencies included; securing and decommissioning an inactive well and no approved sample siting plan. The system has also failed to test the water for total coliform bacteria on a regular monthly basis, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), lead and copper and inform its customers about the quality of their water.

“The users of this system should be aware that unless required monitoring is completed, there is no way to know if the water is safe to drink,” said Vaughn Blethen, an Enforcement Officer with EPA Region 10.

The system is a piped water system constructed by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) during the 1950s. Four wells provide water for the community and the harbor, with 250,000 gallons of storage. Funds have been requested to replace the failing 45-year-old water storage tank and distribution mains. Saint George is accessible only by air and sea.

Testing is important because the presence of total coliforms is an indicator of whether potentially dangerous bacteria is in the water. Coliforms are naturally occurring in the environment as well as feces. Fecal coliforms and E.coli only come from human and animal fecal waste. VOCs are generally from industrial practices and affect the liver, kidneys, nervous and circulatory systems. VOCs are a known cancer risk. Exposure to lead in drinking water may lead to delays in physical or mental development of infants and children, and kidney problems and high blood pressure in adults. High levels of copper can create gastrointestinal distress, and eventual liver or kidney damage.


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