Kalifornsky Beach flooding raises health concerns

Flooding along Kalifornsky Beach Road has the potential to impact septic systems in the area, and has residents worried about serious health hazards.


“It is a serious health hazard,” said David Yragui. “That’s what I’ve been trying to communicate to people for a month now.”

The flooding began a month ago when the 5,000-acre swamp at the north end of Kalifornsky Beach Road began overflowing. The borough dug ditches and laid culverts attempting to drain the flooded roads, driveways and yards. Some residents did the same.

But the flooding persists. The borough has been unable to drain the surface water from properties between Mile 10 and 15 on Kalifornsky Beach Road, Borough Chief of Staff Paul Ostrander said. There is no drain, he said.

As a result, area residents face a serious health hazard, Yragui said. He is the owner of the Redoubt Plumbing & Heating and owns property directly west of the swamp.

Area residents should stop pumping their septic systems until the flooding resides, he said. Ground water, when a septic system is pumped, can press the leach field’s grey water into the system, he said. That can drag sand into the gravel and rock leach field, ruining its permeability, he said.

Residents should also be wary when pumping out their crawl spaces, he said. Too large a pump can drag raw sewage or leach-field fluid beneath a house, he said.

Wells, too, are in danger, he said. If pumped water collects around the surface of a well cap, a winter-time cold snap can freeze the water and lift the well casing from the ground, potentially contaminating well water.

“It’s a potential for a big problem,” he said. “People just need to be aware of it.”

Tuesday, seeking the source of the problem and the solution, the borough met with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service, Ostrander said.

Today, an ADOT and borough hydrologist will inspect the swamp to try to figure out what is causing the flooding. Another hydrologist will attend, too, but Ostrander was unable to say from what agency. Office of Emergency Management Director Scott Walden was unavailable as of deadline Wednesday to specify.

“Based on what they tell us, we’ll go forward from there,” Ostrander said.


Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.