DEQ Disputes Report That Montana Has the Worst Tap Water in USA
According to the report, Montana was found to have the least clean tap water in the contiguous United States with 813 public water system violations throughout 2022, the highest number of violations per 1 million population in the U.S.
Just How Healthy is Montana's Tap Water?
KGVO News reached out to Rebecca Harbage, Public Policy Director with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for her view of the study.
Harbage said the study results are misleading in several ways.
“In the context of monitoring and regulating a public water supply, there are a number of different types of violations that DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) might issue to a system,” began Harbage. “Many of them are administrative, and they certainly don't mean that the water is bad, so the implication that a lot of violations in one year means that Montana has bad or unhealthy tabular is not true.”
Harbage said the report does not include actual health-related violations.
Harbage said Montana has had Very Few 'Health Related Violations'
“The next piece of that is that Montana actually has relatively few health-based violations,” she said. “The EPA does have requirements that states have fewer than 10 percent of their public water supply systems that have health-based violations, and in Montana, we are every year well below that threshold. So we have fewer than 10 percent of our systems that have health-based violations in any one year.”
Harbage said Montana has few large cities, but hundreds of small or rural water systems and that sampling of those small water systems is closely tracked.
“For example in Montana, we have 2,200 public water systems across the state, because we're a really big state,” she said. “We have seven big population centers, as I'm sure you know, and we're very happy with the water quality in all of those big population centers. We also have lots and lots of very small rural public water systems across the state, and the fact that we're watching and we're issuing violations when we notice things like a lack of sampling means that we're paying attention and we can catch any issue before it becomes a health problem.”
Some Smaller Communities need More Training in Testing and Sampling their Water
Harbage said operators of small rural water systems need regular training to learn how to properly sample and test their water.
“Some of the things that we see, I would say most frequently, are a lack of information or a lack of knowledge on the part of the operator of the system,” she said. “Our DEQ is really focused on operator certification training and providing technical assistance. So the operators of those, especially the small rural public water systems, know what the requirements are and know how to comply.”
According to the report from Great Green Wall Health, Kentucky was reported to have the best quality tap water in the U.S. with just 100 Public Water Systems violations, or 22.16 violations per 1 million residents.
A ‘violation’ is termed as a breach of the Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.
A ‘water emergency’ occurred in Phillipsburg in Granite County in 2022. Click here to read that story.
KGVO checked on the 'Great Green Wall' website, but no report on 'tap water' was found. Click here to read reports from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.