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Water line break forces business closures in Big Timber

Closure sign at Timber Bar
Posted at 5:32 PM, Oct 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-17 21:08:38-04

BIG TIMBER — An early Tuesday morning water line break in Big Timber led to businesses, restaurants, and schools closing down, and a boil water notice was placed for water users in the city.

Water service was restored Tuesday night, according to the city of Big Timber, the boil water notice will remain until Oct. 24.

Big Timber Bakery was one of many businesses unable to continue operations without water.

“It really did affect us. We had to close early with a whole pile of pastries still left. We actually kept one person here for a while to greet any people and at least sell pastries. But we could no longer cook or wash dishes or anything like that,” said Elizabeth Haugh, an employee of the bakery, on Tuesday. “There was several groups we had to turn away, or they would come in and just get pastries, which at least we still had that from earlier in the day."

Elizabeth Haugh
Elizabeth Haugh

Across town, it was a similar story. Even the high school had to send students home.

Residents were shocked to find their water had been shut off.

“We’ve already had over 60 calls this morning," said Greg DeBoer, the mayor of Big Timber, on Tuesday. "People (were) asking what’s up with the water."

DeBoer says it all started with fiber optic work.

"We have a contractor working for the fiber optics that we’re putting in, and they hit our water main up by the water tank. So it’s a bad spot," DeBoer said. "So as of now, all water is shut off, there’s no pressure."

Greg DeBoer
Greg DeBoer

Montana Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Emergency Services have been notified but a boil order will remain in place until water tests are cleared with public health officials.

"Ultimately it’s up to the DEQ and DES for the water samples to make sure that it is safe to drink," DeBoer said. "So until further notice, it will be a boil for consumption obviously. Cooking, drinking, that kind of thing."

Closed sign at Big Timber Bakery
Closed sign at Big Timber Bakery

DeBoer said the town is diligently working to repair the problems caused by the break.

“Our public works team’s doing a great job. Hope, our clerk and recorder here, she’s been busy answering the phone," DeBoer said. "Our deputy clerk is out with COVID, so it's just been Hope."

Closure sign at Timber Bar
Closure sign at Timber Bar

Until then, bottled water will be flying off the shelves, with residents not knowing how long the outage could last.

“I drove by the Family Dollar coming here and I saw people carrying cases of bottled water," DeBoer said. "So people are preparing and they’ll probably hit Billings next. When we run out, they’ll tap out Columbus and then Billings."

To learn more about the water issues in Big Timber, click here.