Fifteen hundred people in Crow Agency are without water after vandals this week essentially destroyed the town’s water treatment plant.
Its manager calls it an act of terrorism and thinks she knows who may have done it.
Crow Agency’s water treatment plant was trashed sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday morning.
The vandal or vandals shot, smashed and burned everything in sight, causing at least one million dollars in damage. The plant will be offline for months.
While the FBI and Bureau of Indian Affairs are conducting a joint investigation, plant director Dayle Felicia tells Montana Public Radio she personally thinks it was an inside job:
“We are suspicious of disgruntled employees who feel like they should not have been furloughed,” she said.
The Crow tribal government is facing mounting debt amid declining coal revenue.
Tribal Chair, Alvin Not Afraid Jr., this week announced austerity measures that include the temporary layoffs of hundreds of tribal employees, until recently seven of whom worked at the water treatment plant.
“Why punish the elderly, the handicapped and the Head Start children, the hospital?" Felicia said. "It’s never ok to use violence – to use terrorism – to hurt an entire community. Water is life. Water is everything.”
The Crow Tribal government told Crow Agency’s 1,500 residents to avoid drinking, or even touching the water until safety tests could be conducted.
The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs operates a water treatment plant that adjoins Crow Agency’s. The vandals tried and failed to break into that plant as well.
Both facilities act as backup for one another in case of emergency, but residents can’t use water from the BIA plant until tests certify it is safe.
Meanwhile, the tribe plans to distribute bottled water and temporary showers across the community.