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EPA: No contamination in water delivered on Crow Reservation

December 19, 2018

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Test results show no evidence of E. coli bacteria contamination in water delivered to about 2,000 people on Montana’s Crow Indian Reservation, after government investigators raised concerns about lax water quality monitoring.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tested water systems in Wyola and Pryor last week and none of the results showed evidence of E. coli bacteria, which can come from animal or human waste, EPA spokesman Richard Mylott said late Tuesday.

Water delivered in Crow Agency also has shown no contamination in tests conducted throughout the year, according to federal and tribal officials.

The EPA Inspector General’s office last week issued a report raising concerns about potential human health threats after evidence of contamination was found in water from the Little Bighorn River that supplies the Crow Agency system. That water is treated before entering the system that distributes water to residents.

The Crow Agency system is run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Mylott said the EPA was working with the tribe and other federal agencies to resolve all issues, but added that there were ongoing concerns about water monitoring amid a shortfall in tribal funding.

The inspector general’s report said EPA officials had issued notices of violation for the Pryor and Wyola water systems after they did not perform required testing for contamination. The systems combined serve almost 700 residents, three schools and a health clinic.

Tribal officials want a new water delivery system for the reservation, to be paid for with a $460 million settlement in 2011 of the Crow’s historical water rights claims. The upgrade effort has been hampered by financial troubles including $13 million of dollars in unaccounted-for money that was meant for system improvements.

Tribal Chairman Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid said in a statement that it’s his administration’s intention to pay back any money that didn’t go toward the water system upgrades. But he said the government shouldn’t hold “hostage” the settlement funds while the accounting problems are sorted out.

“The Crow Tribe did not enter into a treaty with the United States to secure contaminated water,” Not Afraid said. “The U.S. government is failing to fulfill its trust responsibility.”

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This version of the story corrects the date of Mylott’s comments to Tuesday.

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