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Rural Yellowstone County water district holding public meeting to discuss high nitrate levels

Posted at 3:11 PM, Jul 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-16 19:43:51-04

HUNTLEY- High nitrate levels discovered in May in a rural Yellowstone County water system are likely to remain for the “foreseeable future” as local and state engineers scramble to find a fix.

The Worden, Ballantine, Yellowstone County Water & Sewer District announced Tuesday it is holding a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. July 29 at Huntley Project High School to discuss a problem likely caused by fertilizers and livestock near the water source.

On June 12, water district officials issued an alert that infants below the age of six months, pregnant women and other at-risk members of the public should not drink the water, or juice or formulas made from the water. The water should be safe for everyone else, according to the district.

An initial test in May showed the system’s nitrate levels were above federal and state allowable limits of 10 milligrams per liter. A follow-up test in June indicated nitrate levels at 12 milligrams per liter, which prompted the warning.

Water district officials emphasized that boiling water concentrate the nitrates and will not make the water safe. Filtering, freezing or letting the water stand will also not reduce nitrates.

According to state environmental regulators, nitrate levels in the water system have risen gradually over the past decade.

High nitrate levels in drinking water are harmful to babies because it may cause “Blue Baby Syndrome,” where blood cannot transport oxygen and babies asphyxiate.

If an infant is affected, the skin turns a blue color, similar to the color of the blood vessels located close to the skin. If a parent or other caregiver observes this condition, medical help should be sought immediately. The infant is being asphyxiated because oxygen cannot be transported by the blood. Prompt medical attention normally results in quick recovery of the infant.

The district uses an infiltration gallery well as its primary water source, which has a group of perforated tiles that collect groundwater.

The supply is augmented by a conventional well, which district officials say tests for acceptable nitrate levels but delivers fewer gallons per minute.

Bottled water is available between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., or by appointment, at the Worden, Ballantine, Yellowstone County District Office, 2449 Main St., in Worden.

For further information, please contact Gary Fredericks at 406-696-5507 or visit the WBYC Water & Sewer District website.