01.05.17

Daines Implores Indian Health Service to Immediately Fund Repairs to Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Water System

U.S. SENATE —U.S. Senator Steve Daines today urged the Indian Health Service (IHS) to comply with Chippewa Cree Tribe’s request for emergency funding to repair the on-reservation water system in light of recent breakages and contamination.

In a letter to Mary Smith, the Principal Deputy Director of IHS, Daines implored her to immediately act on the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s request to ensure water delivery and water safety. 

“I write to implore your swift and immediate action in response to the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s urgent request regarding the tribe’s water service,” Daines wrote. “This matter is of utmost importance and must be addressed immediately.” 

Dustin White, Tribal Water Resources Department Director-InterimChippewa Cree Tribe: “On behalf of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, I want to thank Senator Daines and his entire staff for assisting and helping with the coordination of federal agencies to help secure technical and financial emergency assistance. Your assistance has been a huge help in understanding the emergency process and knowing which Agencies to notify and contact.  Again, thank you very much we appreciate everything you do for the Tribe and the State.”

On December 22, the Rocky Boy Rural Water System reported a loss of pressure resulting in approximately 115 homes and various commercial buildings being without water and pressure loss in the system. 

On December 23, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an Emergency Administrative Order requiring that all water in the system be boiled prior to use.

From December 22 to December 27, the system experienced six additional water pipe breaks in the crawl spaces of residential homes and two water main breaks. In the meantime, the tribe has been distributing water bottles to those affected, including delivery to community elders and those with disabilities.

Daines and his staff have been working closely with the tribe to ensure they have safe drinking water. 

Daines’ letter is available to download HERE and below:

January 4, 2016 

Dear Ms. Smith: 

I write to implore your swift and immediate action in response to the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s urgent request regarding the tribe’s water service. As detailed in their proposal to you, the tribe is in need of emergency funding under P.L. 86-121 for technical and financial assistance for sourcewater supply repairs, transmission main repairs, purchase and delivery of alternative water, and administration of the Emergency Administrative Order issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on December 23, 2016. 

By way of brief background, on December 21, 2016, the Tribal Water Resources Department-Public Works (TWRD-PW) became aware of low water pressures and depleting water storage tank levels throughout the Newtown Water system, which is located on the reservation. Through consultation with the Chippewa Cree Housing Authority and TWRD-PW inspection of the distribution system, the tribe discovered that several residential homes suffered 1) waterline breaks due to extremely low temperatures, 2) loss of heating and electrical service, and 3) a subsequent warming pattern in the air temperatures. As a result, hundreds of thousands of gallons of water was wasted, depleting water storage in three of the reservation’s primary storage facilities. By the afternoon of December 22, the Newtown, Bonneau, and 3 Mile Tanks were drained and approximately 115 residential homes, the Rocky Boy Head Start facilities, Stone Child College, and the Chippewa Cree Tribal Justice Center were without water pressure and water service. From December 22 through December 27, 2016 the system experienced six more water pipe breaks in the crawl spaces of residential homes and two water main breaks. 

As further detailed in the tribe’s request, a failure to act will cause the persistence of “significant sanitary deficiencies . . . Such a system failure carries with it a high potential that fecal contamination or other disease-causing organisms could enter the distribution system. These conditions may pose an imminent and substantial health endangerment to persons served by the system.” This matter is of utmost importance and must be addressed immediately. 

I urge you to promptly help the Chippewa Cree Tribe remedy this crisis. I also request your response with your intended course of action by Monday, January 9.

Sincerely, 

###