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Billings starts construction of new water treatment plant and reservoirs

4374 Hesper Rd - 1
Posted at 11:17 PM, Mar 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-13 08:10:12-04

BILLINGS - The city of Billings celebrated a groundbreaking Tuesday afternoon on the West End water project.

The state-of-the-art water treatment facility along Hesper Road will address increasing demands for water as the city continues to grow, while also minimizing the load on the existing plant.

It will put Billings in a good position for water in the future.

"This is a huge day,” said Louis Engels, water quality water quality superintendent with the city of Billings public works department. “Huge milestone for this community"

Engels said the plant will help meet the increasing demand for water and allow the city to shut down the current plant for what he calls vital maintenance.

"It's much like a turnaround you might see at a refinery where you can do a lot of heavy maintenance in a short period of time,” Engels said. “We've never been able to do that. In 110 years of operation of our existing facility, we've never shut it down for more than 15 hours."

The city of Billings recently signed a $68 million contract with Dick Anderson Construction.

"We're a Montana contractor,” said Aaron Byron, Dick Anderson project manager. “I'm a Montana boy born and raised. How proud and honored we are to build this project for the future of Billings."

The project includes a diversion structure to get water from the Billings Bench Water Association canal, a pump station and two reservoirs.

"This is a project that will outlast all of us here,” said Jason Schaefer, Burns & McDonnell Engineering project manager. “And we'll be supplying water for all of our generations to come."

The belief is that the reservoirs and the treatment plant will prevent what happened in 2021 when the city was forced to put in water restrictions because of high demand.

"We are able to triple the current size of Billings with our current water rights at our current water use rate,” Engels said. “That's really quite exceptional in the West."

Mayor Bill Cole says the current water system is vulnerable to mechanical problems, floods and disasters.

Engels pointed to the Exxon Mobil pipeline break in Laurel in 2011 and the Montana Rail Link train derailment near Reed Point last year.

"Those kinds of issues can happen on the Yellowstone,” Engels said. “The reservoir specifically gives us the ability to say okay, I'm not going to take that water today. I'm going to let it go by. I'm going to sustain the city off of these reservoirs and just ensure that the water quality is always as good as it can be."

The plant is expected to be ready in late 2026.