Havre Daily News
Montana Department of Environmental Quality officials have proposed that the Hill County Water District get treated water from Havre, but only if Havre joins the Rocky Boy's/North Central Montana Regional Water System.
If Havre joins the regional water system, a pipeline could be built to connect the Havre water treatment plant with the county district's pumping station in Kremlin early during the project's construction. That would provide the country district, now under a boil order, with an interim source of treated water until the county district can connect to the Rocky Boy's/North Central system, DEQ compliance section supervisor John Camden said Wednesday night.
The water district remains under a boil order because water samples revealed the presence of bacteria and a deficiency in disinfection.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice told the Havre City Council on Tuesday that he'd heard unofficially that the county water district would ask to connect to the Havre treatment plant. He asked the council to hold off on a decision on whether Havre should join the Rocky Boy's/North Central system until it heard more information about that request.
Rice could not be reached for comment today.
The North Central Montana Regional Water Authority will hold its annual meeting Sept. 20, during which it will accept new membership. The authority is made up of the nontribal communities in the system, which will bring water treated at Lake Elwell to more than 18,000 residents across north-central Montana.
The Havre City Council will meet Sept. 19 to once again consider joining the system.
The Hill County Water District board learned about DEQ's proposal at its meeting Wednesday night.
Camden told the board he was "only trying to plant the seed" of the idea when he had a discussion with state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation officials. He said he did not know who told Rice about it.
"This is a very viable option for the future," Camden said at the meeting. "We're not forcing it down your throat."
The Hill County Water District, on the other hand, had more pressing issues at hand.
DEQ issued a boil order for the district on Aug. 4 after a July 28 department sanitary survey found that the district was not providing adquate disinfection and that bacteria samples tested positive for coliform and fecal coliform. The order was reissued Sept. 1 after an Aug. 28 sample tested positive for E. coli bacteria.
DEQ case management bureau chief Frank Gessaman told water district officials that fecal coliform is an "indicator organism" that is found in the intestinal tracts of warm-blooded animals. Its presence raises the possibility that there could be animal or human sewage in the district's water lines.
"The possibility is very high that there is waste in the water," Gessaman said.
The boil order will remain in effect until chlorine is found at the farthest ends of the system and samples are clear of bacteria, the DEQ officials said. In addition, the boil order will stay in place for users within a two-mile radius around the Kremlin pump station, because there is not adequate time for chlorine treatment to take effect that close to the station.
Water district officials said chlorine is present in the system, though it is stronger in some places than in others. They said they will begin flushing the lines to help spread the disinfectant to the ends of the lines.
Officials also said they have been fielding complaints from customers, specifically restaurant and bar owners who have to travel to purchase bottled water and ice.
Hiway Bar owner Mark Kralich said in an interview Wednesday he would like to see some money from the district to make up for his losses.
"We get no reimbursement from them, but, by golly, we've got to pay our $46 a month," Kralich said. "It's just not fair."
DEQ began the process of drafting a new administrative order for the water district, one that sets requirments for treatment and sets deadlines for the district to either connect to the Rocky Boy's system or construct a treatment plant. The department in 1994 issued an order requiring the district to filter its water. Compliance with the order has been put on hold because the district is waiting to connect to the proposed Rocky Boy's/North Central system.
DEQ officials want the water district to develop plans to control fish, birds and algae growth at its storage ponds in Kremlin; test water for bacteria weekly and for turbidity and chlorine daily; provide the specificiations of its chlorine pumps in Kremlin, Hingham and Inverness; install equipment that will continuously monitor and record turbidity and chlorination; and install ultraviolet light disinfection equipment.
The draft administrative order sets a deadline of July 1, 2009, for the district to connect to the Rocky Boy's/North Central system.
District chair Dave Jones said the group has done all it can to push the system along, but is waiting on Congress to provide funding.
Gessaman said the budget situation in Congress is affected by things like the war in Iraq and the hurricane disaster along the Gulf Coast.
"At some point, there's going to have to be a decision," Gessaman said.
He stressed that the administrative order is still in draft form and that deadlines may change. He also said the requirement to connect to the regional water system by 2009 could be revisited in the future.