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By Jack H. Smith
Three Forks Voice 

Science fair project gives city heads up on arsenic in water


A middle school science project helped the City of Three Forks find out their water system had violated the Arsenic drinking water standard.

At last week’s Council Meeting, Council member Teri Whitesitt said she received a text from Melissa Johnson who said her daughter Erica performed water testing as middle school science fair project and found high levels of arsenic in the school’s drinking fountains.

Mayor Steve Hamilton told the governing body the arsenic levels from the fountains were substantially high, and as soon as the city learned that information, they ordered sample bottles, took more samples from the fountains and sent them in for testing.

The results from the tests ranged from .009 to .015 mg/L. The current maximum containment level is .010 mg/L.

Hamilton said the city has always been aware Well number 2 has high levels of arsenic and roughly 15 years ago they installed an arsenic treatment plan. He added they believe the media in the plant is no longer pulling out the arsenic, they are no longer using the well and running all the other wells, but they also have issues with radon and manganese. The city plans to replace the media and took additional testing Monday. Hamilton said the city is way closer to the allowed levels now that well two is offline.

“Because of Erica’s project we found this out way sooner than we would have normally. Our testing was not supposed to happen until March and Erica found out in late January and alerted the City,” he said.


A release from the City of Three Forks showed water sample results received during the 1st quarter of 2019, taken at the treatment plant for well 2, showed Arsenic to be 0.067 mg/L. This is above the total Arsenic maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 0.010 mg/L.

The release states that while this is not an emergency and the public is not at immediate risk, residents have the right to know what happens, what they should do, and what the city is doing to correct the situation.

The release states the treatment plan for Well 2 failed and has been shut down.

“New media will be added to the treatment plant and will be monitored before it is put back in service. Quarterly monitoring is in place for the duration of the plant operation”

For more information, please contact City of Three Forks, PO Box 187, Three Forks, MT 59752. (406) 285-3431.

You can find the full release from the city of page 12.

Editor’s Note: The information from the council meeting was taken from the draft minutes.


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