The town of Crow Agency has been without water since Friday morning after multiple water line breaks caused the distribution system to shut down, according to a press release sent out by the Crow Tribal Executive Branch.
The Crow Tribal Disaster and Emergency Services were working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service to fix the water lines. On Saturday two breaks had been found, one near the St. Dennis Church, according to an updated release sent out Saturday afternoon. BIA officials were working to fix them, but said the situation is expected to last through the weekend and possibly into next week, according to the release.
Vernon Hill, deputy of Crow Tribal DES, said they thought there were at least three water line breaks around town, but they hadn’t all been found. Hill didn’t know the cause of the breaks, but cited the recent thaws as a possible reason.
The Crow Tribe issued a boil-order advisory Friday afternoon for Crow Agency residents to boil all water for three minutes before using it, citing concern that the water supply may have been compromised by the lack of pressure. The advisory was still in effect Saturday afternoon and won’t be lifted until the water lines are repaired, the system is flushed, disinfected and the water is tested.
The lack of water pressure could potentially lead to back pressure causing contaminated water to be sucked back into the water lines, said Tanner Black Eagle, lead water treatment operator for the Crow Tribe’s Water Authority.
According the press release from the Crow Tribe there was high risk of fecal contamination or other disease carrying contamination going back into the distribution system from the back pressure, which could cause an “imminent and substantial health endangerment."
Black Eagle said the water pressure was below the minimum 20 psi. He said the maintained water pressure for the system varies but has to consistently stay above 20 psi. The low pressure gauges indicated that some people around town could still access tap water, but it was unsafe to drink or use.
At the plant they were trying to re-pressurize to get water into storage tanks, Black Eagle said, but there was difficulty because of the substantial loss of water over the past few days. The water treatment plant was not contaminated, he said.
The breaks likely began occurring Wednesday night, Black Eagle said. The complete lack of water pressure was noticed Friday morning.
Issues from the low water pressure caused the Indian Health Service to send patients at the Crow/Northern Cheyenne Hospital to nearby clinics Friday, including the Pryor Health Station and the Lodge Grass Health Clinics, according to a Facebook post by the IHS.
In an effort to get drinking water to citizens, officials began distributing bottled water to residents and businesses Friday, according to the release.
Friday night the Crow Tribal DES, the BIA and the IHS worked to distribute 17 pallets of bottled water to residents in Crow. On Saturday morning 20 pallets donated by Pepsi Co. and 12 pallets of bottled water donated by WinCo Foods, were delivered to the town, according to the press release.
Thirty-five portable toilets have been distributed around town, the release stated. Bottled water was also being distributed from the Water Distribution/Donation Center at the Crow Fire Hall.