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Billings new water treatment plant will make the city better prepared

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Posted at 12:03 AM, May 23, 2024

BILLINGS - The Billings Public Works Department held an open house at the water treatment plant showing the process for clean drinking water, as it prepares for the new plant on the west end.

“Every so often you have to clean the filters by moving water backward through them,” said Louis Engels, city of Billings water quality superintendent.

Twelve filters have to be cleaned at least every 80 hours to provide 20 million to 60 million gallons of water a day depending on the time of year to those living in Billings.

Construction has started on the west end treatment plant and Engels says crews had the first pour of concrete this week.

“We're very near the capacity of this existing treatment facility,” Engels said. “That's why we're building that plan out there. That's one of the reasons.”

Engels says the city will be better prepared for events such as the floods in 2022 and the train derailment in Big Timber last year.

“It will protect us from that or oil spills that will come down the Yellowstone River, Engels said. “To be able to say, hey, we're going to take the plant offline, let that water go by."

Engels also says with maintenance, the current plant can be shut down for eight to 12 hours. With two plants, one can be turned off much longer.

Meanwhile, the public works department is also working on storm drains.

“Some of the rainstorms that Billings gets are too much for us to handle,” said Tyler Westrope, a city of Billings staff engineer.

Westrope says the city has been evaluating the system for about four years to help deal with flooding and prevent pipe failure, similar to what happened on Gabel Road last year.  

“We have pipes in the ground that are over 100 years old,” Westrope said. “And under a normal storm event, they might function fine. Under a large storm event, the age coupled with the intensity of water causes failures.”  

He says some pipes can be fixed with a liner and any replacements are expected to last 150 years.

“Our job is to manage that as best as possible,” Westrope said. “Manage the normal storm events, manage the big storm events but make sure that the record storm events don't cause a lot of issues.

“Billings has done a very good job of planning for the future,” Engels said.

The new plant is scheduled to open in 2026.

The city is holding two stormwater program meetings at the Billings Public Library Royal Johnson Community Room:

  • Tuesday, May 28 - noon to 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday May 29 - 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.