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Havre officials detail timeline, issues in boil advisory

Free water distribution, cisterns, better notification and updates on the advisory discussed

In a slightly shorter - but still often contentious - meeting about Havre's boil advisory, Havre City Council heard an update on the timeline and background of the boil advisory, comments from the public and an announcement that the city is in the process of distributing some free bottled water.

The presence of active Giardia, a microscopic parasite that can cause illness, has not been confirmed in Havre's water supply but because three cases of Giardiasis were confirmed in the first quarter of the year, the city issued a boil advisory warning people active Giardia might be present and they may wish to avoid consuming city water unless it first was boiled. That advisory still is in effect, with the city working with Montana Department of Environmental Quality, which has jurisdiction over the issue, and other entities like Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and Hill County Health Department, to ensure the water is safe.

Havre Mayor Doug Kaercher said during a town hall meeting in City Hall Monday that he had contacted Red Cross, as was suggested at the May 6 council meeting where the issue was discussed some three hours, to see if it could help provide water to people who don't want to use the city water and are having a hard time affording buying bottled water.

He said Red Cross wasn't interested because it wasn't considered an emergency, just a boil advisory.

But, he said to applause, the person to whom he spoke connected him with Anheuser-Busch, and the city took delivery Friday of a semi-load of water donated by the company.

Kaercher said Anheuser-Busch had requirements on the donation, with public entities like schools, hospitals and nursing homes receiving water from the donation first. The city is in the process of coordinating with those local entities.

"I assume we're going to have some water left over for the public," he said.

This is the third distribution of water in the city. Havre Assembly of God Church reached out to Convoy of Hope, which delivered a semi-load of water which the church distributed water at the church and to neighborhoods in Havre April 30 and May 1.

City Council also distributed water, May 11. Council members pooled funds and took donations from businesses to provide water in each of the city wards.

Cisterns

After an audience members asked about an issue raised May 6, the group also said they are in the process of finding out the best way to for people who store and use water in cisterns to reduce any risk.

Public Works Director Trevor Mork said he has been in contact with Montana Department of Environmental Quality and a private company, but had not received a response to his request as of Monday.

Hill County Health Officer Kim Berg said she has received some information from DEQ but the release of information was not finalized as of Monday.

"But I do have information and I will get that out," she said, adding she wants to know the best way to release that information.

She said she can put in on the website and social media outlets of the Hill County Health Department, where she also is the department director, and will distribute it to the local media outlets. She said she would distribute the information to anyone who needed it, with one person suggesting the city should be able to provide a list of everyone who buys water from the bulk water distribution station.

Code Red notifications

The city had posted materials about signing up for the Code Red notification system around the room and had flyers on how to sign up at the meeting.

Havre Police Chief Gabe Matosich said the system can be used to put out emergency alerts and also provide general alerts, like Havre issuing a boil advisory, but people have to sign up to received the general alerts.

People can text "HillAlert" to 99411 and follow the instructions to sign up for alerts. They also can visit https://hillcounty.us/departments/sheriff_coroner.php m with a link at the top of the page, or https://www.ci.havre.mt.us , with a link near the bottom of the page, or scan a QR code available to sign up.

Matosich said the system is being updated right now, and they will be conducting some test runs and notifications, probably this week.

Update on the boil advisory

Mork gave an extensive timeline on what has happened in the past several months the lento the boil advisory said the city has been following the procedures DEQ has told them to follow including increasing treatment and flushing distribution lines, although he said the department has not been very consistent or timely in its feedback.

He and Water Plant Superintendent Amanda Vaughn also answered many questions about the treatment process and what they are doing to meet DEQ requirements

Vaughn said they have been following the treatment procedures and she has been testing the lines every day and the tests are showing the water meeting the required levels.

But, she said, she found out Monday that a DEQ employee had been in Havre May 7 doing tests, and some came back below the required levels.

Vaugh said she tries to be with the DEQ personnel when they are doing tests, but she was not aware they were in town May 7 doing the tests.

She said she went to the locations listed in the report as being below the required level Monday and tested all of them using the proper procedure and they all were above the required level. She said she doesn't know what procedure the DEQ personnel used, because she didn't know they were testing.

The city officials are meeting with DEQ officials this morning to begin a comprehensive performance evaluation at the plant intended to see what can be done to improve performance at the plant.

Several people in the audience suggested an after-event evaluation to find out what if anything went wrong and what can be done to prevent anything from happening in the future.

Mork said the city is coordinating with the county health department and is planning to conduct now of those evaluations after the comprehensive performance evaluation is complete. That evaluation should be complete by April 24 with the final report issued within 60 days.

Watch for more in Thursday's edition of Havre Weekly Chronicle.

 

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