Workers accidentally taint Mont. tribal water, degreaser mistaken for chlorine 5-25-07

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Workers accidentally put a solvent into the water system at an American Indian reservation in northern Montana, and residents were advised to drink only bottled water, a tribal spokesman said Friday.

The degreaser from a container similar to that used for chlorine created a fuel smell in the water on part of the 190-square-mile Rocky Boy Indian Reservation, and consumers contacted tribal officials Wednesday evening, said Neal Rosette, executive administrative officer for the Chippewa Cree Tribe on the reservation.

Water service in the tribal system was shut off Thursday evening, Rosette said.

Consuming the water could cause nausea and other illnesses, and bathing with it could irritate the skin, Rosette said. There were no confirmed reports of sickness or injuries on the reservation, where several thousand people live.

About 300 households, roughly 70 percent of those on the reservation, had been at risk, Rosette said.

He estimated 14 gallons of solvent were added to 400,000 gallons of water.

The Environmental Protection Agency sent officials to the reservation Friday. The agency regulates the water system, which the tribe runs.

The water system was flushed for cleansing and will be flushed again, Rosette said.