By Ron VandenBoom
Backup generators and careful forethought have assured Havre residents that water and sewer services will not be interrupted due to Y2K.
All storage tanks in Havre will be at full capacity come Dec. 31, ready to supply approximately 7 million gallons of water to Havre residents in the event of a Y2K power outage or other natural or man-made disaster.
Dave Peterson, deputy director of Public Works in Havre, explained that normally during the winter the large 3.5 million gallon capacity tank in Highland Park is drained. That leaves the equally large tank in east Havre and the small elevated tank by Optimist Field as the city's only reserves. Filling all of the tanks will nearly double the number of gallons the city typically stores during the winter.
It was a plan city officials thought prudent due to the Y2K threat.
"Just in case of a power outage and we can't get things going, we'll have an extra 3 million gallons of storage," Peterson said, noting that 7 million gallons should be enough water to meet the needs of the community for at least 24 hours.
Jeff Jensen, assistant superintendent of Havre's water treatment plant, said the city also has leased backup generators from a company in Billings, another in Great Falls, and a third is available from Dickinson, N.D. Another generator also is ready to be connected to a well in the area that is capable of producing 1 million gallons of water per day if the need arises.
All of the computers at the water plant have been upgraded by the company that supplied them to insure they are Y2K compliant, Jensen said.
Security at the water plant also will be beefed up during the Y2K holiday. Jensen said the plant will be manned on Dec. 31 through the Y2K event and frequent patrols by the Havre Police Department have been arranged.
Jensen noted that the plant is already surrounded by a fence.
The Waste Water Treatment Plant also is ready for Y2K, said Kristi Kline, superintendent of the facility.
The plant is equipped with what Kline called a "chatter box" that will alert personnel of any power failure that strikes the facility. The "chatter box" operates on a backup battery.
Backup power at the facility will be supplied by a generator that was installed during recent construction at the plant, Kline said. The generator provides enough power to insure that the pumps will pull water out of the main line, run it through the plant where it will be chlorinated and disinfected before being discharged into the Milk River.
Kline said that even though there will be water available during a power outage, there is processing that goes on and water is essential to that process.
Therefore, it's important that people conserve water, she said.
Computers at the facility are not expected to be a problem because they operate on a 24-hour clock rather than a date clock, Kline said.
Like the water plant, the Waste Water Treatment Plant is surrounded by a fence and will be manned Dec. 31. Sheriff's deputies, too, are expected to help keep a sharp eye out for any signs of pranksters or intruders at the plant.
Havre's Maintenance Department will be ready for emergencies by having seven employees on standby, said Gary Schaub, maintenance superintendent of Public Works.
"Generally, we only have two people on call for a holiday," Schaub said. "But because of the Y2K scare, we decided to put five extra people on."
Schaub's department will be ready to supply power to any sewer line lift stations with a 70 KW generator, as well as to handle any water-line breaks that may occur during the holiday period.
"Water breaks will be handled in the usual manner," Schaub said, explaining that valves will be shut off by the crews if power is going to be out for several days and it happens to be on a "not very important line." Important lines will be closed and repaired immediately.
Peterson suggests that residents do nothing extraordinary in response to Y2K, but he also emphasizes that anyone who lives in Montana should be somewhat prepared for disaster
"Think of it as going camping," he said. "Take what you need to take care of yourself for a few days."