Montana Department of Environmental Quality About Us Permitting & Operator Assistance Public Participation

Drinking Water

Program Overview

Public Water Systems are legally defined as entities that provide water to 25 or more people for more than 60 days a year or have 15 or more service connections. In Montana this includes cities, towns, water districts, subdivisions, HOAs, campgrounds, restaurants, bars and other businesses. The Public Water Supply Bureau at DEQ regulates public water systems in Montana to ensure that the water being served meets federal Safe Drinking Water Act and state laws and regulations. Private wells are not regulated under these regulations.  

Rivers, lakes, springs and wells provide water to PWS that are often treated before serving to the public. The number of people served, the type of source water, and type of contaminants determines the frequency of drinking water testing.

If you are a certified operator or are looking to become certified, visit our Permitting and Operator Assistance page for more information on forms, monitoring schedules, checking your CECs, and other applicable requirements.

Summary data regarding compliance for all public water supply systems in Montana can be viewed in Montana's 2020 Annual Public Water System Compliance Report


Compliance and Reporting

Compliance and reporting is critical to maintaining both Montana’s public water supply and the health of Montana lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. DEQ conducts a variety of inspections and requires mandatory reporting to ensure compliance and protection of public health and Montana waters.


Private Water Wells and Septic Systems

Private water wells and septic systems require homeowners to take more control of their water quality. Well and septic owners have a responsibility to themselves, their families, and their neighbors to protect ground water from contamination and to ensure that water systems provide good quality drinking water.


Contacts

Public Water Supply Bureau

Main Number (406) 444-4400

Bureau Chief
Greg Olsen (406) 444-0493

Several online resources exist to help you find out about levels of regulated contaminants in your treated water for the preceding calendar year.

Consult your annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or search the Drinking Water Watch, which can be searched by county or several other parameters.


Contaminants in Drinking Water

EPA sets legal limits on over 90 contaminants in drinking water. The legal limit for a contaminant reflects the level that protects human health and that water systems can achieve using the best available technology. EPA rules also set water-testing schedules and methods that water systems must follow.

The National Primary Drinking Water Regulations are legally enforceable standards for drinking water. These standards establish maximum levels of contaminants allowed in drinking water to protect public health.

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations

The National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations are non-mandatory standards that serve as guidelines for drinking water contaminants that are not considered a risk to human health.

National Secondary Drinking Water Standards


Water System Rule Summaries

Individual Montana Drinking Water Rules


Source Water Delineation and Assessment

DEQ conducts Source Water Assessments (also known as Source Water Delineation and Assessment Reports) that analyze existing and potential threats to the drinking water of public water supplies.

Each Source Water Assessment includes four major elements:

1. Identify the Source(s) of Water used by Public Water Systems

Source water protection areas are delineated for ground water and surface water sources. This technical process considers characteristics of the aquifer or watershed and the public water system intake. It then identifies the land area that contributes recharge to the hydrologic or hydrogeologic system above or upgradient from the public water system well or intake structure. These protection areas are part of a source water delineation and assessment report (SWDAR) and are shown graphically on a map. Check out examples of completed reports on the Internet

2. Identify and Inventory Potential Contaminant Sources

Potential contaminant sources within the source water protection area are identified and described in the assessment report. Regulated contaminants of concern in Montana include nitrate, microbial contaminants, and certain fuels, solvents, herbicides, pesticides, and metals. Potential contaminants sources include septic systems, animal feeding operations, underground storage tanks, floor drains and sumps, and certain land use activities.

3. Assess the Susceptibility of Public Water Systems to Potential Contaminant Sources

A susceptibility assessment consists of evaluating the setting of the well or intake and the relative hazard posed by potential contaminant sources. A determination of relative susceptibility for each significant potential contaminant source identified within the source water protection area will be in the assessment report.

4. Make Results of the Delineation and Assessment Available to the Public

Source water assessments must be made available to the public; this is accomplished by completing a technical report that addresses items one through three above. Various media are used to distribute the reports including the Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP) Internet site, state library, and excerpts in the consumer confidence reports.

Review Source Water Assessment Reports

Source Water Delineation and Assessment Form Instructions:

Source Water Protection Delineation - PWS-6


Certification of Source Water Protection Plans

Water Quality Districts Program

Local water quality districts  are formed by county governments. Legislation describes district organization and specifies the authorities that can be exercised at the local level. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality provides support to local water quality district programs but does not have an active management role in their activities. Districts have been formed in Missoula, Lewis & Clark, Silver Bow, and Gallatin Counties. These groups serve as local government districts with a governing board of directors, and funding obtained from fees collected annually with county taxes, similar to funding mechanisms for other county districts.

Local Water Quality Districts


INTRODUCTION

Montana has developed health-based guidance values for Manganese in drinking water. Information on the health effects of Manganese is an evolving science, and Montana is using a guidance value approach to help Montana families take voluntary steps to ensure that their drinking water is safe. Because they are guidance values, there are no new or additional regulatory requirements for homeowners or public water systems.

DOCUMENTS:

Private water wells and septic systems require homeowners to take more control of their water quality. Well and septic owners have a responsibility to themselves, their families, and their neighbors to protect ground water from contamination and to ensure that water systems provide good quality drinking water.

Stay Well by Checking Your Well

All well owners should conduct an annual water well "check-up" that includes a wellhead and pressure tank inspection. Conducting an annual well check-up of your water system is an important step to take to ensure proper operation of a well. A check-up can prolong your system’s years of service as you monitor water quality.

Annual check-up checklist:

  • At a minimum, test your water for coliform bacteria and nitrates. You can also test for any additional contaminants that may be specific for your area. You should also have your water tested if there is a: change in taste, odor, or appearance; after the well system is serviced; or after a flooding event.
  • Inspect your well parts to ensure they are in good repair. Look for problems such as cracked, corroded, or damaged well casing or settling and cracking of the ground surface around the well casing. If any of these problems are present, your well can become a conduit for contamination to ground water.
  • Check to make sure your well cap is not broken or missing. If your well does not have a sanitary cap (a two-part cap with a rubber seal), it is recommended that you replace it with a sanitary well cap.
  • Inspect your pressure tank and associated plumbing by looking for things like leaks or corrosion, which could lead to future problems.
  • Survey the area around your well to make sure there are no hazardous materials nearby (paint, motor oil, household chemicals, etc.) which could spill and contaminate your well water.

Don’t Wish for Safe Water…Test for It!

What to do After a Flood

Maintaining a Private Septic System

Bureau Chief

Greg Olsen (406) 444-0493


Program Support Specialist

Jim Sutliff (406) 444-0490

Vacant (406) 444-2859


Operator Certification:

Operator Certification Supervisor
Libby Murray-Henrikson (406) 444-6781

Operator Certification Technician
Reta Therriault (406) 444-3434

Operator Certification Technician
Jen VandenBos  (406) 444-4584


Public Water Supply Field Services: (406) 444-6697

Field Services Supervisor
Lisa Kaufman (406) 444-5313


Field Services Contacts:
Billings Office

Karl Carlson (406) 247-4444

Rebecca Landewe (406) 247-4438

Helena Office

Katie Luther (406) 444-4633

Gerard Gernand (406) 444-5881

Jodi Stoner Granberg (406) 444-3967

Kirk Yoder (406) 444-7494

Tammy Jacobson (406) 444-4071

Kalispell Office

Mike Kropp (406) 755-8971

Melissa Gonser (406) 755-8976

Missoula Office

Sandy Arnold (406) 541-9015

Melee Valett (406) 541-9016


Monitoring and Reporting Section

Monitoring and Reporting Section Supervisor
Eugene Pizzini (406) 444-6972

Chem/Rads and Chemical Waivers Rule Manager
Diane Jordan (406) 444-6741

Consumer Confidence Report Rule Manager
Scott Patterson (406) 444-5360

Disinfection Byproducts Rule Manager
Brian Hogenson (406) 541-9014

Groundwater Rule Manager
Greg Butts (406) 755-8967

Groundwater Under the Direct Influence of Surface Water Rule Manager
Katie Luther (406) 444-4633

Lead and Copper Rule Manager
Megan Falk (406) 444-3276

Lead in Schools Rule Manager
Greg Montgomery (406) 444-5312

Montana Chlorine Rule Manager
Greg Butts (406) 755-8967

Nitrate and Nitrite Rule Manager
Scott Patterson (406) 444-5360

Revised Total Coliform Rule Manager (Transient)
VACANT (406) 444-2691

Revised Total Coliform Rule Manager (Community & Non Transient/Non-Community)
Kegan McClanahan (406) 444-5314

Surface Water Treatment Rule Manager
Lisa Kaufman (406) 444-5313


Technical Services Section

Technical Services Section Supervisor
Libby Murray-Henrikson (406) 444-6781

Data Control Specialist
Lynnette Radonich (406) 444-7460

Data Control Specialist
Kevin Cullen (406) 444-2429

Database Analyst
Jason Griffin (406) 444-2954

Database Analyst
Tyler Sears (406) 444-3744

Rule Technical Coordinator
Andrea Vickory (406) 444-3358

Lead in Schools

This regulation was enacted Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) to protect school children by minimizing lead levels in drinking water provided at Montana’s schools. Children are especially susceptible to lead exposure and spend a large amount of their childhood in schools. It is extremely important that schools are providing safe drinking water.  

Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is partnering with DPHHS to provide sampling and remediation technical assistance and guidance to schools.  

The requirements for schools are as follows:

  1. Effective January 17, 2020, all schools accredited by the Montana Board of Public Education will be required to sample all drinking water fountains and kitchen fixtures that can be used for human consumption. All other potential human consumption fixtures (HCF) must be sampled, unless the school or school district submits a testing plan to the DEQ to test a representative sample of potential HCFs in the school. Schools will have until December 31, 2021 to complete the initial sampling. 
     
  2. Create and maintain a simple schematic and inventory of plumbing materials, all fixtures and those that are used for human consumption. Schools are required to prepare a simple sketch or drawing (also could be aerial photo) showing the locations of all their water fixtures. Schools will also prepare a plumbing inventory including list of all fixtures, plumbing types, maintenance or repair history and general school information. The inventory information will be used to create a sampling plan.
     
  3. Create and implement a water flushing plan. Schools will be required to flush their water systems anytime a school has been inactive for greater than 3 days. Water flushing is an effective way for schools to improve their water quality. It removes stagnant water from pipes and fixtures that may contain higher concentrations of Lead. A water flushing plan/procedure is required to be submitted to the DEQ by September 1, 2021.
     
  4. Follow-up actions will be required depending the results of the sampling. Results will be placed into one of three bins (categories). 
    • Bin 1 – Lead concentrations greater than 15.0 micrograms per Liter (µg/L) – fixture must be immediately removed from service. 
    • Bin 2 – Lead concentrations greater than 5.0 µg/L less than 15.0 µg/L – fixture must be fixed, replaced or removed from service. 
    • Bin 3 – Lead concentrations less than 5.0 µg/L – no action is required. 
       
  5. Outine sampling required following the initial sampling event. Once all fixtures are in Bin 3, the school must sample once every 3 calendar years to confirm HCFs continue to deliver water below 5 µg/L. Schools may submit a waiver to DEQ in writing using a form approved by the department. Sampling frequency may be adjusted by the DEQ based on test results and inventory. 
     
  6. Schools are required to make test results publicly available. Schools are encouraged to inform parents and staff about your school’s lead sampling program. Templates are available for letters to parents, informational posters, and informational post cards. Schools will be required to make the results easily available accessible to parents and staff.  Sample results with remediation status will be publicly available on the DEQ website. Sample results with remediation status will also be available on the DEQ website.  

   Montana DEQ will provide assistance and guidance documents to help schools with these requirements. 

 

Lead is unusual among drinking water contaminants in that it seldom occurs naturally in water supplies like groundwater, rivers, and lakes. Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion, or wearing away, of materials containing lead in the water distribution system and facility plumbing. Corrosion can release lead from pipes, solder, fixtures, and other plumbing materials that the water comes in contact with on its way from the water source to the tap. The extent to which corrosion of plumbing materials occurs can affect the amount of lead that is present in the drinking water. Most lead in school drinking water results from corrosion of older plumbing materials containing lead. Primary contributors are interior lead solder (commonly used until 1988) and lead pipe and lead solder, leaded brass fittings, valves, and various drinking water outlets (e.g., water fountains and faucets) that contain lead. It is also important to note that brass and galvanized plumbing components can contain lead.

When water is stagnant for several hours or more in lead pipes or plumbing systems containing lead, the lead may leach into the drinking water. Schools can be particularly susceptible to higher lead concentrations due to their extended periods of no water use (e.g., holidays, weekends, and winter/spring/summer breaks).

Children are especially susceptible to lead exposure because their bodies absorb the metal at higher rates than the average adult. Children younger than six years old are the most at risk due to their rapid growth rate. Exposure to lead can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells, and kidneys. Exposure to even low levels of lead can cause reduced IQ, hearing impairment, reduced attention span, and poor classroom performance.

DEQ has developed a web application collect EQuIS Collect that allows schools to easily setup and maintain the required information. It also allows schools to fill out their sampling forms and will assign correction actions if needed. DEQ has also developed a dashboard that will allow schools and the public to view the results and associated remedial actions. The remedial actions function on the dashboard is still under development and will be ready shortly. 

Please follow the steps below in the Step by Step Flow Diagram. Please follow the steps carefully. Samples cannot be collected until you school has completed the setup process (plumbing information and inventory). 

Flow Diagram

There are two state grants available to schools to help with funding for the lead reduction in school drinking water program. 

The lead sampling grant covers the laboratory costs associated with the initial lead sampling as funding permits. Schools do not need to apply for this grant. As long as the school submits their samples to a Montana certified laboratory for lead, the laboratory will submit the invoice directly to DEQ for review and payment. For the invoice to be paid, the school must have already submitted their plumbing history, inventory and floorplans to DEQ for approval. Only public schools are eligible for this grant. When contacting the laboratory, make sure to tell them this is part of the lead in school program. 

DEQ partnered with Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) to develop a remediation grant program. The grant program will be implemented through OPI. If your school requires remediation, you will receive an email with directions on how to apply for the reimbursement of up to $1,000 per school. Funding for this reimbursement grant is limited and is based on first come first serve basis. 

There are other sources of funding for remediation activities ranging from grants to low interest loans based on eligibility requirements. A document summarizing these options will be posted under the guidance section of the Lead in School webpage shortly.

Are all schools required to sample for lead in their drinking water? 

All schools that meet the definition below are required to collect samples. This includes public and private schools with the exception of home schools. “School" means a building or structure or portion thereof occupied for the teaching of individuals, the curriculum of which satisfies the basic instructional program approved by the Board of Public Education for pupils in any combination of kindergarten through grade 12, but excludes home schools as that term is defined in 20-5-102(2)(e), MCA. 

How will schools afford to pay for the sampling? 

State of Montana will provide funding for the sample analysis through a grant from the US EPA to assist with testing for lead in drinking water at schools. Montana Certified Laboratories will bill the DEQ directly for the laboratory analysis costs. 

Why did Montana go with an action level of 5.0 ug/L? 

The EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that there is no known safe level of lead in a child's blood. School aged children, especially those six years of age and under are the most susceptible to the effects of lead. Montana is using 5.0 ug/L because it is the practical quantitation level (PQL) for lead. The PQL is the concentration at which a given analysis will be sufficiently precise to yield a satisfactory quantitative result. Or simply put it is the lowest concentration at which Lead can be accurately measured in water. 

How do I find out if my child’s school has tested the drinking water for lead? 
Contact your school administrator to learn about previous or ongoing efforts to test for and reduce lead in drinking water. You can also check the status of the school sampling on the DEQ Lead Reduction in Schools Drinking Water Program webpage. 

Is lead in drinking water the only potential source of lead exposure for kids? 

No. Children can be exposed to lead from paint, dust, soil, air, and food, as well as drinking water. Lead can also be brought into homes on clothes and shoes after exposure from leaded dirt, and industrial processes that involves lead. Be sure to change and wash clothes, remove shoes, and shower to avoid tracking lead into the home from soil, work sites, or hobbies. If a child has an elevated blood lead level, it is likely due to lead exposures from a combination of sources. 

What should I do if I am concerned about my child’s exposure to lead? 

There is no safe blood lead level. In children, even low levels of exposure have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, and impaired hearing. If you are concerned about your child’s exposure to lead, contact a health provider to learn more about blood lead testing. The only way to determine a child’s lead level is to have the child’s blood tested. 

What if my School is a Public Water System (PWS)? 

Schools that are existing PWSs are still required to compile with Montana’s Lead Reduction in School Drinking Water Rule. Compliance samples collected for the federal Lead and Copper rule can not be used to satisfied the Montana rule. Samples are not interchangeable. 

What if my school has already collected samples for lead in the drinking water? 

If your school has already collected samples for lead, the results may be able to be used for this program if: 

  • The same sampling method was the same as the one required in this program. 
  • Samples were collected in a 250 ml container. 
  • Samples were analyzed by a laboratory that is certified to run lead in Montana. 

Who can help me with my sampling program at my school? 

A number of resources will be available to help schools with developing a sampling program. A number of guidance documents and tutorials have been developed to assist schools in implementing the sampling. These documents can be found on the Lead Reduction in School Drinking Water webpage as well as upon request. A number for trainings will be scheduled around the state to walk schools though the program. Schools can also contact the Lead Reduction in School Drinking Water Rule Manager with any questions (contact info below) 

Greg Montgomery 
Reduction in School Drinking Water Rule Manager 
Montana Department of Environmental Quality 
1520 E. 6th Ave. 
Helena, MT 59601 
406-444-5312 
Gregory.montgomery@mt.gov 

Schools can also contact their municipal water department for assistance. Municipal water systems are required to collect a variety of samples to maintain compliance with state and federal drinking water rules. They can be able to provide valuable information/assistance on how to coordinate with laboratories, properly collect and ship samples, and understanding laboratory results. 

Lead In Schools Contact

Lead Reduction in School Drinking Water Rule Manager
Greg Montgomery (406) 444-5312
1520 E 6th Ave
Helena, MT 59601

Questions, Comments and Documentation can be emailed to: DEQleadinschools@mt.gov 

Public Water Supply Emergency, Safety, and Preparedness

In an emergency, make sure you notify 911 and your local authorities first. Then proceed to contact our program through the Disaster and Emergency Services duty officer program at 406-324-4777, which notifies the DEQ duty officer, or contact our offices directly during business hours.

For more information related to emergency preparedness, security, or safety, or if you have questions or comments about these resources contact Kirk Yoder.

The information below is intended to provide resources and information for public water systems related to emergency preparedness, security, and safety.

State & Federal Laws


Emergency Preparedness

Being prepared to respond to threats and incidents is not just a plan.


Safety & Security

As there are numerous safety considerations there is no comprehensive list for all public water systems. The Safety and Health Bureau should be consulted in Montana if an assessment is needed to determine safety hazards and requirements.

Security

The American Water Works Association has tools, provides standards, and has links to additional resources for physical security and cypersecurity planning. Vulnerability Assessments are considered a critical starting point of security planning and overall preparedness.

The following are technical assistance providers that can help with Vulnerability Assessments and developing Emergency Response Plans

Vulnerability Assessments can be a critical part of security planning and overall emergency preparedness

PWS Emergency Contact

Kirk Yoder (406) 444-7494
1520 E 6th Ave
Helena, MT 59601

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