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The Latest: Montana county agrees to upgrade water system

March 30, 2018

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Latest on drinking water contamination in a Montana county (all times local):

2:40 p.m.

A Montana county has agreed to upgrade a small community drinking water system after securing $588,000 in grants.

The proposed agreement between Beaverhead County and the U.S. Department of Justice was filed Wednesday with a lawsuit that accused the Jackson drinking water system of multiple violations.

Federal environmental officials found that the groundwater system exceeded acceptable levels of arsenic and radioactive contaminants, and that the water and sewer district failed to monitor for contamination and file required disclosures.

The agreement between the county and the U.S. government must be approved by a judge after a public-comment period.

Under the deal, the county agrees to regularly monitor and report as soon as the deal takes effect. The county would have until the end of 2018 to upgrade the water system.

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11:15 a.m.

The U.S. government is seeking a court order to force Beaverhead County to comply with drinking water standards, monitoring and reporting requirements for a small community water system in Jackson.

The Department of Justice filed its lawsuit Wednesday after finding the county’s water and sewer district committed numerous violations dating back to 2009, and then disobeyed multiple Environmental Protection Agency orders to fix them.

The violations include levels of arsenic and radioactive contaminants that exceeded the limits multiple times. Despite that, the lawsuit says, the district failed to monitor for those and other contaminants and failed to tell regulators and the public about the excessive contaminants and its own reporting violations.

The groundwater community system serves fewer than 50 people in southwestern Montana.

Beaverhead County attorney Jed Fitch did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.

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