2019/2020 Water Quality Consumer Confidence Report

Introduction

This report informs water customers about the quality of water produced and distributed through the City of Helena Water Treatment Program (ID # MT0000241) in 2019.  If you have questions about this report or are interested in learning more about your drinking water system, please contact the Water Treatment Program at 406-457-8511.

Where does Helena's water come from?

The City of Helena is fortunate to have two separate surface water sources and a groundwater source from which water is collected.  Helena’s primary year-round water source is the upper Tenmile Creek watershed located, approximately seven miles west of Helena.  The Tenmile watershed includes a complex system of intake points, water diversions, and storage structures, designed and constructed over a 100 years ago that are still in use today and deliver water to the Tenmile Water Treatment Plant (Tenmile).  The second surface water source originates at Canyon Ferry Dam, where the water is pumped to a canal system that provides water to the Helena Regulating Reservoir for irrigation, recreation, and drinking water.  From the Helena Regulating Reservoir the water is piped about four miles to the supplemental plant, the Missouri River Water Treatment Plant (MRWTP).  The City typically operates MRWTP only when it is necessary to supply additional water to meet the high use water demand during the summer months, mostly due to residential and commercial irrigation (see Figure 1).  The third source of water is a well system operated year-round to serve a small portion of Helena around Grizzly Gulch.  It is the combination of these three sources of water that allows the City to produce approximately two billion gallons of water annually.

Figure 1: Monthly Water Production

Figure 1: Monthly Water Production

Source Water Assessment

Information on source water and potential risks to the City of Helena’s water sources can be found here: http://deq.mt.gov/Portals/112/Water/WPB/NRISReports/MT0000241.pdf.  Of the potential risks for our water sources, the existing legacy mines in the Tenmile Watershed pose the greatest challenge for the City.  While this risk is currently being managed, and remediation plans have been developed, the City will continue to work with EPA and MT DEQ to further protect our source water.

An Introduction to Your Water

Drinking water, including bottled water, may contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk. More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791). 

The sources of drinking water for Helena include rivers, streams, reservoirs, and wells. As water travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals and can pick up substances resulting from the presence of animals or human activity.

Contaminants that may be present in source water include:

  • Microbial contaminants
  • Inorganic contaminants
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Organic chemical contaminants
  • Radioactive contaminants

Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Immuno-compromised individuals such as people with cancer, undergoing chemotherapy, those who have undergone organ transplants, people with immune system disorders, some elderly, and infants can be particularly at risk for infections. These individuals should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers.

In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, the EPA prescribes regulations which limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems.  In order to verify compliance with these regulations, the City conducts extensive water quality monitoring (see Table 1).  Our monitoring data is reported to the MT DEQ on a regular schedule.  A summary of this information is then shared on an annual basis to all customers (see Table 2).

Table 1: Frequency of Water Quality Monitoring

Table 1: Frequency of Water Quality Monitoring

Daily Chlorine residuals, turbidity
Weekly Total Coliform Bacteria
Quarterly Trihalomethanes and Haloacetic Acids
Yearly Inorganics, Disinfection Byproducts
Every 3 years Fluoride, Lead, and Copper
Every 4 years Radioactivity

Key for Table 2

MCLG

Maximum Contaminant Level Goal.  Level of a contaminant in drinking water below which no known or expected risk to health exists.  MCLG’s allow for a margin of safety.

MCL

Maximum Contaminant Level.  Highest allowable amount of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water.

Level Detected

The highest level of that contaminant used to determine compliance with a National Primary Drinking water regulation.  This can be the highest amount found in the water, the average of all samples analyzed, or a specific percentile of the samples analyzed depending on the regulation.

Range Detected

The lowest to highest result value recorded during the monitoring timeframe.

AL

Action Level, which if exceeded requires additional treatment or other requirements

ND

Non-Detect at Laboratory’s detection level

pCi/l

Picocuries per Liter (a measure of radioactivity)

ppb

Parts per billion

ppm

Parts per million

TT

Treatment Technique.  Required process intended to reduce the level of a contaminant in drinking water.

NTU

Nephelometric Turbidity Unit, is a measure of water clarity. Turbidity of 5 NTU is just noticeable to the average person.

N/A

Not applicable

Table 2: Water Monitoring Data

Monitoring data collected prior to Drinking Water Tap

 

Contaminant

(units) year collected

Compliance

Y/N

MCLG

(goal)

MCL

or TT

(requirement)

Level Detected

Range Detected

Potential Source

Treatment Process

Turbidity (NTU) 2019

Tenmile

MRWTP

 

Y

 

N/A

 

1

 

 

0.16

0.18

 

N/A

Naturally present in water

Total Organic Carbon(ppm) 2019

Tenmile

MRWTP

 

Y

 

N/A

 

 

TT

 

3.63

2.32

 

1.8-4.4

1.7-2.9

Naturally present in water

 

Chlorine Residual (ppm) 2019

Tenmile

MRWTP

 

Y

 

4

 

4

 

1.6

1.27

 

0.78-1.6

0.23-1.27

Disinfectant added for treatment

Inorganic

 

Arsenic(ppb) 2019

Tenmile

MRWTP

Eureka Well

 

Y

 

0

 

 

10

 

 

5

2

2

 

N/A

 

Erosion of natural deposits, legacy mines

Nitrate + Nitrite(ppm) 2019

Tenmile

MRWTP

Eureka Well

 

Y

 

10

 

10

 

0.04

0.18

1.35

 

N/A

Runoff from fertilizer use, leaching from septic tanks, sewage

Fluoride(ppm) 2019

Tenmile

MRWTP

Eureka Well

 

Y

 

4

 

4

 

ND

0.8

0.10

 

N/A

Erosion of natural deposits

Disinfection Byproducts

Total Trihalomethanes(ppb) 2019

 

Y

N/A

80

56

29-85

By-product of drinking water chlorination

Total Haloacetic Acid(ppb) 2019

 

Y

N/A

60

44

 

25-60

By-product of drinking water chlorination

Radioactive

Radon(pCi/l) 2017

Y

N/A

N/A

N/A

220-1770

Naturally present in local geology

Monitoring data collected from a Drinking Water Tap

 

Contaminant

(units) year collected

Compliance Y/N

AL

MCLG
(goal)

90th percentile

Sites exceeding AL

Potential Source

Inorganic

Copper(ppm) 2018

 

Y

1.3

1.3

0.702

 

0 of 40 Sites

Corrosion of household plumbing systems, erosion of natural deposits, legacy mines

Lead(ppb) 2018

 

Y

15

0

0.3

 

0 of 40 sites

Corrosion of household plumbing systems, erosion of natural deposits, legacy mines

Explanation of:

Microbial Contaminants

Cryptosporidium and Giardia are a microbial pathogen found in surface water throughout the U.S. Although filtration removes Cryptosporidium and Giardia, the most commonly used filtration methods cannot guarantee 100% removal. The City of Helena monitors for these pathogen and tests indicate a low presence of Giardia, before treatment. Microbial contaminates must be ingested to cause disease, and it may be spread through means other than drinking water.  Ingestion of Cryptosporidium or Giardia may cause digestive tract issues.  Symptoms of microbial infection include nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.  

Arsenic

While the City of Helena’s drinking water meets EPA standards for arsenic, it does contain low levels of arsenic. The EPA’s standard balances the current understanding of arsenic’s possible health effects against the costs of removing arsenic from drinking water. The EPA continues to research the health effects of low levels of arsenic, which is a mineral known to cause cancer in humans at high concentrations and is linked to other health effects such as skin damage and circulatory problems.

Lead

If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing. The City of Helena is responsible for providing high quality drinking water, but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. You can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before using water for drinking or cooking, if the water has been off for several hours.  If you are concerned about lead in your water, you may wish to have your water tested.  Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline 1-800-426-4791 or at www.epa.gov/safewater/lead.

Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas in the earth’s crust.  It is soluble in water and is tasteless, colorless and odorless.  There is no federal regulation for radon levels in drinking water as of this printing.  Exposure to air-transmitted radon over a long period of time may cause adverse health effects. For additional information call the State of Montana radon program at 1-800-546-0483, or the EPA’s Radon Hotline at 1-800-SOS-RADON.

Public Participation

City staff welcome feedback and encourage the public to participate in the decision-making process for funding and major infrastructure decisions related to Water Treatment Program. You are invited to attend the regularly scheduled City Commission meetings and can provide feedback to your City Commissioners at mayorandcommission@helenamt.gov. The City Commission meeting schedule is located here.  

Get a Copy of the Report

Print copies of this report are available at:

  • City-County Building, 316 N Park

  • Tenmile Water Treatment Plant, 1115 Rimini Road

  • Wastewater Treatment Plant, 2108 Custer Avenue