EPA takes action to address drinking water violations at the Indian Health Service Blackfeet Community Hospital Public Water System in Browning, Montana
Browning, Mont. (September 15, 2020) --- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached an agreement with the Indian Health Service (IHS) in which IHS will pay a civil penalty of $33,500 to resolve past Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) violations at the Blackfeet Community Hospital Public Water System on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. The water system provides drinking water to the Blackfeet Community Hospital, a 110,000 square-foot health care facility in the community of Browning.
Under the terms of a Consent Agreement finalized on August 27, 2020, IHS, as the owner and operator of the public water system, has agreed to the penalty to resolve violations of an EPA Administrative Order issued on May 20, 2019, and other prior SDWA violations. These violations included the failure to monitor for lead and copper, nitrate, and total coliform; failure to report violations to EPA; and late public notices of the violations. The water system returned to compliance with the EPA order on June 8, 2020.
“Public water systems must meet the Safe Drinking Water Act requirements that keep our drinking water safe,” said EPA Region 8 Enforcement Director Suzanne Bohan. “This is particularly important where a system is responsible for serving vulnerable populations, as is the case with the Blackfeet Community Hospital system.”
EPA has primacy for implementation of the SDWA in Indian country in Region 8 and monitors compliance and takes enforcement actions against public water systems that violate regulations. EPA Administrative Orders address violations by requiring public water systems to comply with drinking water regulations and specify action items for returning to compliance. If a system does not comply with the requirements of orders within specified timeframes, EPA may issue penalty actions. The penalty amount is based on a combination of the seriousness of the violations and the size of the population at risk, among other factors.