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Crow Agency Residents Without Water

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer

Authorities are handing out bottled water at Crow Agency in southeast Montana after water line breaks in an old tribal building left residents without clean water.

Multiple businesses have donated bottled water over the weekend, and authorities have provided port-a-potties.

Stell Passes of Crow Agency said her home has been without any water since Friday. She said she’s taken her kids to shower in Hardin and Billings, and she says her brother brought in water from Hardin.

She also said she’s been refilling the toilet water tank in her home.

“When the housing authority delivered port-a-potties, they only put one of the street that I live on,” said Passes. “And my elderly mother isn’t gonna walk on ice all the way to down to where that port-a-potty was at.”

Passes said neighbors have checked on each other to make sure no one is stranded, especially elders.

Tanner Black Eagle, the Crow Tribe’s lead water treatment operator, said the entire system is interconnected and they found broken lines in the old tribal administration building, which was abandoned about six months ago.

He said the building’s basement is now flooded with water.

“Corrosion and freezing of the lines and thawing out - a combination of both of those things I think caused our problems, and because it was abandoned no one was really there to report the issue,” said Black Eagle.

He said, even if there are other leaks, he suspects this was the most severe damage, and Crow has worked out a corrective action plan with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to cap the lines in the building so it doesn’t happen again.

Black Eagle said the Crow Tribe, together with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, have fixed the leaks, but it may take a couple of days to flush the system of contaminants and make the water drinkable. He said residents should boil any tap water they intend to use.