Yellowstone County Unified Health Command press release:
Billing, MT – With the recent announcement that the City of Billings was forced to shut down its water treatment plant late Tuesday evening June 14 due to flooding from the Yellowstone River, the Unified Health Command (UHC), composed of Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Healthcare, RiverStone Health, and Yellowstone County Disaster and Emergency Services, stands with the City of Billings in calling on area residents to take all reasonable steps to conserve water. That said, know that our city’s water is safe to drink and you should prioritize your health and hydration.
Plant operations resumed Wednesday afternoon at a noticeably low capacity. Therefore, everyone in Billings is strongly encouraged to limit non-essential use of water supplied by the town water plant. Anyone can help the city by following this request. Several simple conservation actions include, but are not limited to:
- Refrain from watering grass and gardens
- Refrain from washing your vehicles until the plant is operational
- Postpone laundry for several days if possible
- Only run the dishwasher when it is full
- Limit the water used for or during showers and baths
Our residents must act now to help mitigate the impact this serious situation could have on health care and essential services in our community.
Although the closure of the water plant has not directly affected our healthcare organizations and day-to-day hospital operations in Billings at this time, water is a critical resource for us. We use it for everything from chillers and boilers for facility operations to patient care, sterilization and food service. Since the water supply may be limited until the factory resumes operations, we do everything we can to limit water use and conserve it as much as possible. This includes work to bring in water tankers with an emergency water supply, looking at where we can limit large-scale use, and working closely with local authorities and community partners to both monitor the situation and bring the water plant back online as soon as possible.
The municipal plant has an emergency water supply for times like this, but we must do all we can to help limit the use of this supply. Therefore, UHC asks all area residents to join us in supporting the city and each other in conserving water. This allows enough time for water levels to drop and for the Town of Billings to resume normal operations. At the same time, please put your safety first and make sure you stay well hydrated.
You can read more details about the closure of the city’s water plant at https://ci.billings.mt.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=2333
Also check out these questions and answers about flood conditions and water conservation from the Public Works Department: https://www.billingsmtpublicworks.gov/DocumentCenter/View/960/City-of-Billings-Public-Works-QAs-on-Flood-Condition-and-Water-Conservation-6152022
The following is an update from the City of Billings sent at 3:51 p.m.:
As of this afternoon, floodwaters continue to affect operations at the Town of Billings Water Plant.
At this time, the water plant is operating, but at a noticeably low capacity to supply the water tanks. This is an improvement over our situation last night when the water plant closed.
We are confident that if we continue to have very low water demand across the city, we can continue to operate our plant at this capacity. This means that we continue to ask everyone to refrain from watering the grass and using irrigation systems connected to the city water network.
Public Works employees at the water plant worked tirelessly to monitor the water supply available to residents.
An ongoing testing process can ensure everyone has safe drinking water.
We also want to use this time to encourage our community to only turn to official and trustworthy sources for updates and information.
We appreciate everyone’s consideration, concern and attention to this issue.
You will find a list of questions we encounter and answers to these questions on the Public Works website at this link: https://www.billingsmtpublicworks.gov/DocumentCenter/View/960/City-of-Billings-Public-Works-QAs-on-Flood-Condition-and-Water-Conservation-6152022
Here is a press release from the City of Billings:
BILLINGS — Flooding on the Yellowstone River forced Public Works to shut down its water treatment plant Tuesday night.
As of 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, the water level at the plant was over 16 feet.
For the plant to operate efficiently, the river must be 15 feet or less.
The City of Billings asks residents to conserve water, especially refraining from watering the grass and using irrigation systems provided by the city water plant.
The water supply system has between a day and a day and a half of water supply for Billings.
How long the problem will last is unpredictable, but National Weather Service hydrographs show water levels dropping two feet after peaking. The latest forecast shows the crest of the Yellowstone River on Wednesday.
Even after the river drops below 15 feet, the plant still has the task of cleaning the filters to function properly.
While the plant is shut down, residents may notice the water pressure decreasing until the plant can turn back on.
Public Works Director Debi Meling noted that the Yellowstone River reached 87,000 cubic feet per second Wednesday morning.
“Last year around this time we had 8,000 CFS and that was a record,” Meling said.
These record levels make the event a 500-year flood.
Public Works guarantees that the drinking water from the plant is safe to drink and we will notify the community immediately if this changes.
With temperatures forecast to hit the 90s on Friday and Saturday, using the water outdoors will be tempting, but recent rains have saturated the ground, reducing the need to water grass and plants.
Other city operations found ways to conserve water, including the fire department filling its tank trucks with water from the Yellowstone River. Parks and Recreation also stopped watering the park’s grass with city water. The Highway Traffic Division has stopped watering the grass in the right-of-way.
The City of Billings will alert residents as soon as water usage can return to normal.