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Havre residents still boiling water as state and federal regulators step in

The grant is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.
Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio
The grant is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.

More than one month after Havre's 9,000 residents were placed under a water boil advisory,state and federal regulators are stepping in to assess the problems with the town's drinking water.

The City of Havre and Montana Department of Environmental Quality issued the boil notice on April 19.

“You know it’s just every day, gotta boil more pots of water, gotta boil more pots of water,” said Havre resident Tricia Williams Ferry.

The city gets its drinking water from the Milk River and Ferry said she’s used to a couple of days a year of discolored water when the city flushes out its towers.

“Usually when things like this happen, my thoughts are, 'oh, they’ll get it figured out, but this has gone on for a long time,” said Williams Ferry. “A lot longer than these kinds of things usually happen up here.”

According to state records, Havre fell out of compliance with treatment standards in early February and again in March. Later in March, the Hill County Public Health Department confirmed two cases of giardiasis, an intestinal infection.

The public health department confirmed the third and most recent case of a giardia infection in a Havre resident on April 18. The city issued a water boil advisory the next day, and it’s remained in place since then.

Havre Mayor Doug Kaercher says the city has been pumping more chlorine through the water system, but not all water lines have so far met the regulatory standard.

“Until the DEQ believes that we’ve completely sanitized our system, we are still under the boil advisory,” Kaercher said.

Because of noncompliance, members of the Department of Environmental Quality along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency visited Havre from May 20 to 24 to conduct a Comprehensive Performance Evaluation.

DEQ Water Department Division Head Lindsey Krywaruchka says they looked at the treatment process and the existing protocols.

“It’s very unlikely that there’s one cause, and that’s why we wanted to do this comprehensive assessment to provide Havre with some training resources,” Krywaruchka said.

The DEQ plans to issue a summary of recommendations within 2 weeks with a report expected by the end of July. According to Havre Director of Public Works Trevor Mork, a full system flushing is underway to make sure higher quality water is flowing throughout.

Havre’s water advisory can be viewed here. Health officials recommend residents boil their water at a rolling boil for a full minute. Mayor Kaercher says people can contact the city for bottled water.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.