One or more vandals shot up, smashed and burned Crow Agency's water treatment facility, causing an estimated $1 million in damage Wednesday morning, the tribe's water authority director said.
Someone had opened the facility's doors overnight with a carpentry claw and gone through the building shooting, smashing and burning just about everything in sight, said Candy Felicia, who is the director of the Crow Tribe's Water Authority.
"So they went inside and they broke everything possible, shot up as many things as they could and tried to burn everything they could possibly burn," Felicia said. "I feel like ultimately they tried to burn the plant down."
While the concrete structure didn't burn down, the Crow Tribal government is treating the situation as a worst case scenario, urging Crow Agency's residents not to drink or touch the water while the Environmental Protection Agency conducts lab tests on water samples.
Other restrictions on water use include use for pets, making ice, brushing teeth, shaving, preparing food, bathing, showering, hand washing, doing laundry or cleaning. "Do not boil the water," the release states.
Speaking Wednesday evening, Felicia said she hopes those safety tests produce results within 48 hours.
In the meantime, the tribe plans to provide water to the affected area — with about 1,600 residents — including delivering temporary showers and bottled water, Felicia said.
She said Crow Tribal Chairman Alvin "A.J." Not Afraid met Wednesday morning with Bureau of Indian Affairs Superintendent Vianna Stewart and other "key players" including Indian Health Services to make a plan.
If the water is deemed safe for consumption, Felicia said a BIA-operated water treatment facility should be able to meet the community's needs while repairs are conducted on the damaged facility.
"Then we will go from there. Pretty much week-by-week," she said. It could take "several weeks to possibly a couple months to get everything assessed and fixed and replaced," Felicia said.
The water can be used for flushing toilets and putting out fires, Felicia said.
"There is no confirmation of any contamination as of yet, but because it was sabotaged so terribly, we can't afford to take any risks," she said. "We have an elderly home, a hospital, a couple schools, Head Starts. It's imperative that we take every precautionary measure until immediate test results prove otherwise. Just leave it (the water) alone."
Felicia said she was stunned by the scope of the damage.
"I got out of my vehicle and (the police) said it had been robbed and vandalized. I couldn't believe it. They destroyed so much," she said. "They cut wires, they burned wires, they shot everything up. There's shotgun holes everywhere in the plant."
Papers were burned and it appeared a welding torch might have been used for some of the damage, Felicia said.
The BIA and FBI are investigating the incident.