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Fort Yates water problem prompts EPA emergency action

Release Date: 11/26/2003
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      Denver -- The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday issued an Emergency Administrative Order to the Fort Yates Public Water System, located on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Sioux County, North Dakota, to advise consumers to boil their water until further notice. The EPA boil order was communicated to the Tribal Chairman and Vice Chairman, and the manager of the rural water system by telephone Monday afternoon.

      The Fort Yates Public Water System cannot supply water to consumers in the communities of Fort Yates, Cannonball and Porcupine, and the Prairie Nights Casino due to a failure of the intake pumps resulting in a significant drop in pressure in the distribution system.

      EPA appreciates the cooperation of the Bureau of Reclamation, Indian Health Service and the North Dakota Department of Health to restore normal service and safe drinking water as quickly as possible.

      "EPA is responsible to ensure the safety of the water people are drinking, cooking with and bathing in. The responsibility to provide and treat the water rests with BOR," said Gary Carlson, lead technical expert at EPA. "The North Dakota Department of Health responded promptly when notified by the Tribe and is making sure the affected residents have safe water while the system is being repaired. Bottled water is being provided free of charge at the local high school."

      EPA and the state health department are working closely together to share resources in this time of emergency to assist the Tribe, BOR and local residents.

      The boil order will be in effect until the pressure at the Fort Yates plant is restored and the system has been cleaned, flushed and disinfected. EPA requires a multi-day testing process after these actions have been taken and will have a technical expert on-site continuously to provide direction and assistance until safe water is restored. The technical support staff in the EPA Denver office will be working and available to assist on Thanksgiving and throughout the weekend.