Havre Daily News
The Hill County Water District board has approved a plan to install a $1.12 million water filtration system to use until the district can connect to the Rocky Boy's/North Central Regional Water System.
The filtration system will be paid for with a federal grant the Rocky Boy's/North Central Montana Regional Water Authority transferred to the water district and a loan, said Hill County Water District board chair Dave Jones.
The regional water authority originally applied for the grant to pay for piping and easements to connect the county water district with the larger system. But the regional water authority decided to use it instead to help the district comply with a state order to install a filtration system, said Bear Paw Development Corp. deputy director Annmarie Robinson, who is the water project coordinator.
Jones said water rates may increase to pay off the loan, and that the county district also has reserve money that can be used for that purpose. Customers now pay a $40 base fee and $1.50 per 1,000 gallons from May through October and $2 per 1,000 gallons for November to May.
The county district serves 1,700 people from Kremlin to Joplin.
The grant, which is for up to $1 million, requires a match of 45 percent from another source, Jones said. The county district is applying for a loan from a federal government rural development program or another source to provide the match, he added.
Jones said the project is a temporary fix until the county district can join the regional water system. Since 1994, the county district has been under an state administrative order to connect to the Rocky Boy's/North Central Regional Water System.
The county district will install a membrane filtration system, in which water passes through synthetic wound fibers to remove contaminants. The district will continue disinfecting the water with chlorine, which is how the water is treated now, after the membrane treatment, said Janet Cherry, an environmental engineer with the state Department of Environmental Quality.
It will be the second such plant in the state. The only other membrane plant in the state is in East Glacier, which is under construction, Cherry said.
Havre has a conventional water treatment plant, which uses gravel and sand to filter water and also adds chemicals to adhere to particles and sift them out, Robinson said. The membrane treatment does not require the use of chemicals to remove particles.
Robinson said conventional plants cost about $1.5 million to install and another $34,000 a year in operations and maintenance. Membrane systems cost about $1.1 million to install and $12,000 a year to operate. That does not include the costs of pumping and chlorination.
According to DEQ deadlines, the district is to have an approved filtration system design by February and construction is to begin in July. The water district is working with engineer Ray Armstrong of HKM Engineering in Billings.
The project is to be complete in November. If the treatment system is not in place by the deadline, DEQ will assess the reasons for the delay and set a new deadline, Cherry said. The DEQ can issue fines, but it would depend on the situation, she added.
Jones said the new filtration system is said to be “operator friendly” and will not require new staff.
DEQ issued a boil order in the district on Aug. 4 after random sample of district water found E. coli and coliform bacteria, indicators of animal or human fecal matter. E. coli can cause a flu-like illness.
A boil order is still in effect for district users who live within a two-mile radius of Kremlin because Hill County Water District water is chlorinated at Kremlin and there isn't sufficient time to kill all of the bacteria before it reaches nearby users.
The water system is fed by surface water from Fresno Reservoir and the Marias River.