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Tester, FEMA admin tour Billings water treatment plant

Water treatment plant.PNG
Posted at 7:03 PM, Jun 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-17 22:08:03-04

BILLINGS — A 500-year event flooded homes, tore up roads and also threatened Billings' water supply.

On Friday, a tour was held at the water treatment facility in Billings, attended by FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. They were there to see the damage done to the plant but to also get an idea of plans for the new treatment facility planned for Billings West End.

The plant will cost $140 million to construct but a federal grant of $50 million will aid in the construction and would lessen the burden on taxpayers. The grant has been previously rejected, but city leaders and Tester said they're confident the city will receive the grant this time.

"What we've seen adds some urgency to what Billings is trying to do here," said Tester Friday.

The flooding was the tipping point for the city to ramp up production.

"This has been our number one priority for many years.... We have peaked, absolutely peaked, the demand that we can serve from this plant," said Public Works Director Debi Meling.

The fast-growing population in Billings has stressed water treatment in Billings. By adding two new reservoirs, they can not only keep up with demand but be better prepared for a natural disaster.

Currently, the city has a 24-36 hour supply of usable water if the treatment facility fails. After the additions, there will be a 40-day supply, which lessens the dependency on the river in times of crisis.

"We need to get it done and get it done right so the river can be isolated if they need to isolate it whether it's for flood or drought and they've got enough water to supply the people of the Magic City," said Tester.