HYSHAM — Hysham residents were given letters Tuesday evening informing them not to consume the water after the water plant's filter failed early Monday.
The concern is that loss of filtration may have led to multiple contaminants, including fecal coliform bacteria and multiple chemicals, in the drinking water. This comes at a time when the town has already been on a water boil advisory after multiple failures at the water treatment plant.
"The use of bottled water is recommended at this time. Do not use the water for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, making baby formula or food preparation," the letter delivered door-to-door to residents said.
Marianne Prine has lived in Hysham for five years. She said they've been dealing with water problems the entire time.
“Here we go again. Same old stuff, different day. Same old crap different day, and it’s sad,” Prine said. “Something has to be done. We’re getting sick, can’t drink the water, everybody gets sick around here because of it. And the smell is horrible.”
Julio Morales, 75, was not surprised to hear about the warning, but only found out Wednesday afternoon. After already brushing his teeth with the water.
“Now I’m really concerned is if we can't even brush our teeth with that water. I feel like I’m in a third-world country. I really do. And we’re number one, or supposed to be,” Morales said.
The Hysham water plant operator, Roy Long, spent most of his day handing out bottled water. He said he made his coffee with tap water Wednesday morning and feels comfortable drinking the water.
“There’s communication between all parties involved, between the state and engineers and everything so hopefully within the next few days we’ll have everything we need to move forward, buy the parts and everything like that,” Long said.
Nicole Stephenson is the disaster and emergency services coordinator for Treasure County. She said they know this is very serious and they are waiting for material to fix the issue. Once it is fixed, Stephenson said the town will most likely go back to a boil order.
"Waiting for an updated test to come back at the end of the week to make sure the manganese level has come down to appropriate standards," Stephenson said. "[We're] waiting for funding and supply chain. Getting materials is extremely difficult."
Hysham Mayor Larry Fink took a trip to Billings Wednesday to buy as much water as possible for residents to use.
"Now it looks like we might have to declare a state of an emergency," Fink said. “I thought that this would have been taken care of months ago. But that’s the way the government goes.”