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Update: Billings water treatment plant running at full capacity, residents can go back to 'normal' water use

Water Plant PHoto.jpg
City of Billings
The Yellowstone River flooded at the Billings water treatment plant overnight Tuesday.

Billings' water treatment plant is back to running at full capacity after city officials had to power it down earlier in the week due to flooding on the Yellowstone River.

The city announced Thursday morning that there are "no signs" the plant is having issues operating, and residents can return to normal water use.

The city had to shut the plant down late Tuesday night after the Yellowstone River swelled to just above 16 feet, about a foot above the plant’s capacity.

In a statement, the city thanked residents for working to conserve water while the plant was powered down.

"We are aware yesterday’s alert to the community caused a panic. That was never our hope, and we only wanted to keep everyone informed," the statement read.

"We have never witnessed a situation like the one we saw yesterday."

The National Weather Service reports the Yellowstone River in Billings was below 12 feet as of Thursday morning, and a flood warning for Yellowstone and Stillwater counties has been cancelled.

Original story

Billings’ water treatment plant is running again after flooding forced the city to shut it down late Tuesday night due to flooding.

The city said Wednesday evening the plant is operating “at a level that can meet the community’s essential needs,” but urged residents to continue to save water.

City officials shut down the water treatment plant after the Yellowstone River swelled to just above 16 feet — a foot above the plant’s capacity. The city estimated Wednesday morning it only has enough water to last it a day and a half, but by Wednesday evening officials said they were “feeling confident that we won’t run out of water by that day to day-and-a-half time frame we originally expected, but that is only if residents continue to conserve water.”

The city has stopped irrigating public parks, and its fire department is using water from the river to fill its trucks. City administrator Chris Kukulski said residents should hold off on watering or irrigating their lawns with city water for a couple of days, but possibly longer.

“We’re just really asking people to please help us for hours or days,” he said Wednesday morning. “Provided things go positively, that’s what we’re needing help. But we have to plan for the worst, so any conservation people will do will help us ultimately.”

The Unified Health Command, made up of Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Healthcare, Riverstone Health and Yellowstone Disaster and Emergency Services, echoed the call for conserving water, suggesting residents can wait a few days to do laundry, refrain from washing vehicles until the water treatment plant is fully operational, and limit the amount of water used during baths or showers.

The group said the plant shutdown hasn’t directly affected Billings hospitals, they’re “doing all we can to limit water use and conserve as much as possible.”

“Our residents must take action now to help mitigate the impact this serious situation could have on health care and essential services in our community,” the group said in a news release. “The city plant has backup water supplies in place for times like this, but we must do everything we can to help limit the usage of that supply.”

The city is asking residents to conserve water through at least Thursday morning.

“If residents continue to refrain from watering their grass or taking part in other activities that use a significant amount of water, we will be able to continue providing the city with basic water services,” the city said on Facebook.

Nadya joined Yellowstone Public Radio as news director in October 2021. Before coming to YPR, she spent six years as digital news editor/reporter for the NPR affiliate in Wichita, Kansas, where her work earned several Kansas Association of Broadcasters awards and a regional Edward R. Murrow award for Excellence in Social Media. Originally from Texas, Nadya has lived and worked in Colorado, Illinois, Washington, D.C.; and North Dakota. She lives in Billings with her cat, Dragon, and dog, Trooper, and enjoys hiking, crocheting, and traveling as often as possible.