Havre Daily News
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has issued a boil order for the Hill County Water District, which provides water to about 1,700 people from Kremlin to Joplin.
The boil order took effect Thursday and will remain in effect until several rounds of tests are completed, a DEQ employee said today.
County residents who use district water should boil their water vigorously for at least one minute, Hill County planner and sanitarian Clay Vincent said today.
The order was put into effect after DEQ found evidence of two types of bacteria, E. coli and coliform, in district water. Both indicate the presence of human or animal fecal matter, DEQ environmental engineer Janet Cherry said today. E. coli can cause diarrhea and vomiting, she said. Coliform does not typically harm people with healthy immune systems, she said.
Cherry said she has not received any reports that contaminated water has made anybody ill. It takes about 72 hours to suffer illness from E. coli bacteria, she said, and she said it's not likely anybody will become ill at this point.
The problem, Cherry said, was that the district was not sufficiently chlorinating the water. Past samples taken by the state had not revealed a similar problem, she said.
The water district has increased its chlorination of the water already, Cherry said, though she said DEQ will wait until several rounds of tests show no more presence of bacteria before lifting the boil order. Since the bacteria was found, no additional test results have been analyzed, she said.
The state will review tests weekly, Cherry said. It is asking to see 12 bacterial tests each week and 16 chlorine- level tests each day from different points on the system.
Vincent said he learned about the boil order Thursday and contacted Hi-Line restaurants to be sure that they knew to purchase bottled water and ice or boil water before serving it.
"The water as is is OK to take a shower in or to use for the other things that go on in the house," Vincent said, "but not for consumption."
The state tested the water when it learned about staff changes in the district, Cherry said. The district usually has two employees who operate the system. One employee resigned in mid-July, Cherry said. A new employee has been hired and the district is back to full staff.
Cherry said there was no indication that the contamination had anything to do with the staffing shortage.
District water comes from the Marias River and Fresno Reservoir, she said. Both are surface water sources, so the presence of contamination is not surprising, she said.