If you read the Big Timber Pioneer you may think last week’s City Council meeting was all about chickens but equal time was given to a serious water issue facing the City of Big Timber.
Is the water issue in Big Timber just another instance of government manipulators not letting a crisis go to waste? Does Big Timber have a water quality problem? Why are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) making an issue of Big Timbers’ water at this particular moment?
The population of Big Timber has been about the same since 1940 (Click here and here and here to see reasonable proof). The current water system has been in place for 80 years and it has not caused a health problem for City residents. So what’s the deal?
A few weeks ago the Montana Department of Environmental Quality notified the city that copper levels were a little high. Their recommended solution was to add Orthophosphate to the water. That is supposed to coat the pipes and prevent leaching. It is a common solution to the problem. However, after years of study, a lot of common solutions have been found to be very dangerous. Orthophosphate has been studied for quite a long time. But by whom and for what reasons? It seems to be a drastic remedy for what the DEQ calls a little problem.
What might be called “the establishment” says this about Orthophosphate:
“What is orthophosphate and why is it being added to my drinking water?
Orthophosphate is a food-grade chemical and is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. It is certified for use in drinking water treatment by the National Sanitation Foundation, and is used widely as a food acidifier in soft drinks.
Orthophosphate, is a commonly used as a “corrosion inhibitor,” which when added to finished drinking water will form a protective coating on the inside of service lines and household plumbing reducing lead leaching into drinking water. Starting August 23, 2004, it is being added to the drinking water supplies in DC, Arlington, Falls Church, Vienna, and in parts of northeast Fairfax County served by Falls Church.
How long will it take to see reduced lead levels once the orthophosphate has been added?
According to EPA, there should be noticeable results within a year in areas with lead drinking water problems, although it could take longer before lead levels below the federal safety action level are achieved.
The addition of orthophosphate may cause drinking water to temporarily turn reddish-orange (red water). What causes this color change and what should I do?
The addition of orthophosphate in drinking water may cause iron to dissolve from water pipes into the water. The color change is temporary and will normally go away by running your cold water until it is clear. Do not drink, cook, wash clothes or use hot water that is discolored. If after repeated flushing the problem persists, then contact your water utility.”
It is not difficult to add a piece of equipment at the headwaters to pump the chemical into the system. The cost would be $12 – $15,000 for the pump and $15 -$20,000 per year for chemicals or about $25 per resident of Big Timber for the first year. Not terribly expensive for safe water, but would it be any safer than it is now? Or would it be more dangerous?
The City Council resisted the DEQ’s demand to install a pump and put Orthophosphate in City water. At the last City Council meeting (April 16) the city’s engineer showed up with new tests on Big Timber water at the intake galleries. Suddenly, after their Orthophosphate demand met resistance, the bureaucrats decided to test the system and declare it “may” be “high risk” for contamination by Cryptosporidium and Giardia and insist the City “must” comply with their provisions. They gave three very expensive options.
This appears to be a classic case of government bureaucratic over-reach and vengeance, if not outright blackmail. Big Timber’s water compares favorably with Columbus and Harlowton. For recent data click here for Big Timber, here for Harlowton, and here for Columbus. Are those communities getting similar treatment from the DEQ and EPA? Harlowton has been treating their water for years. When they had a slight problem with copper they were asked to monitor it and it cleared up on its own. Perhaps state officials were more reasonable and flexible in those days. Columbus might have similar issues, but there appear to be conflicting reports and erratic testing. Are the DEQ and EPA trying to make Big Timber an example, or are they punishing the City for standing up to the water bullies, or both?
Cryptosporidium and Giardia come from sewage and wildlife. There is no sewage outflow above our intake except possible illegal sewage disposal from private property.
Cryptosporidium and Giardia were NOT found in the water samples.
Even if both were found in the water Chlorine kills them. The City adds chlorine.
The issue of Big Timbers’ water is big and will probably get bigger. SGCCI has written about the phony “Gang Green” agenda before (The Red and the Green and 21 Gets Booted ). The current situation smacks of the Big Government plan to control resources, including water. That may be or may become the basis of the water issue in Big Timber. In any case, the residents of Big Timber need to do their homework before the government experts who want to ‘help’ us force the city to engineer another expensive and potentially health threatening boondoggle.
And what is the price of resisting the DEQ and EPA? If the City fights and loses huge fines are likely. The final result would be that the EPA would come into Big Timber and take over the water system. Who do you think will pay for that added layer of government control? Who will pay the fines? Do you trust the government to protect your health and control your water? Or are they more concerned with implementing their agenda?
‘little problem; high risk situation; must comply.”
Does Big Timber have a monster in the Black Lagoon?