Water, Wastewater & Stormwater Systems
Water & Wastewater Systems
Certified operators and laboratory personnel oversee the entire Water and Wastewater Systems and processes 24 hours per day, every day of the year. This steadfast commitment ensures that our systems always exceed the requirements of the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and the Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM).
The Public Works Department staffs a State Certified Laboratory responsible for testing and monitoring the water quality. Testing is performed throughout the entire treatment and reclamation processes, as well as testing while in the distribution system. We perform many hundreds of tests and analysis monthly to ensure that we deliver a superior quality product for your drinking water, and to that the reclaimed water causes no harm to our environment.
Each month, we submit a detailed report to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality documenting our compliance with the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act and the Administrative Rules of Montana. We publish a monthly water quality report for the Yellowstone River, which is our water source, and for our finished drinking water product.
Access the current water quality data:
- Water Treatment
- Wastewater Reclamation
- Meters, Mains & Hydrants
- Ditches & Drains
- Fats, Oils & Grease
Water Treatment Plant History
In 1885, several prominent businessmen formed the Billings Water Power Company and began construction of a waterworks facility. At that time, the waterworks facility housed an 80-horsepower waterwheel to generate electricity for the City and a 1.25-million-gallon-a-day (MGD) pump that delivered an estimated 150,000 gallons per day of untreated water to the City through 5.25 miles of distribution pipe.
The City of Billings purchased the waterworks in 1915 for $315,000. The plant has undergone many upgrades and expansions and now provides complete conventional treatment for up to 60 MGD.
Our Water Source
The Yellowstone River, a high-quality surface water source and the longest free-flowing river in the country, is the source of our drinking water.
On its 640-mile journey from Yellowstone Park, the water picks up contaminants, such as microorganisms, organic and inorganic contaminants, suspended solids and trace contaminants from upstream agricultural and industrial activities. The City’s water treatment facility plays a critical role in removing these contaminants to provide us with safe, high-quality drinking water.
Water Treatment Process
The Gerald D. Underwood Water Treatment Plant has two raw water intake structures:
- Intake Number 1 is a side channel diversion and is the primary intake.
- Intake Number 2 is a brick structure in the middle of the river and is designed primarily for emergency use.
Water then goes through four basic steps.
- Step One: Coagulation This process uses chemicals such as polymers and polyaluminum chloride to alter the electrical charge on small suspended particles so they to become "sticky".
- Step Two: Flocculation Next, water is mixed with just enough energy to cause the "sticky" particles to clump together and form larger particles with enough mass to settle out of the water.
- Step Three: Sedimentation The large clumps of particles (floc) settle to the bottom of the basin. The plant has both a primary settling basin and a finishing basin. This step typically removes about 95% of the suspended solids in the water.
- Step Four: Disinfection / Filtration The plant uses chlorine to inactivate the health risks associated with microorganisms. The chlorinated water is filtered through 12 dual media filters. These filters are made up of sand and anthracite coal that capture any particles remaining after coagulation, flocculation and sedimentation.
The Control Room is the control center for monitoring and controlling the entire plant treatment process. It also monitors and controls the pumps and reservoirs in the distribution system. This is accomplished by using computers, sensors, monitors, radio and fiber optic communication and specialized software programming that are tied to a SCADA system (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System).
The plant has two, five-million gallon reservoirs that store the treated water long enough for the chlorine to do its job while also providing system storage.
Water treated at the plant must be pumped into the distribution system. The plant’s High Service Pump Station, made up of 12 pumps with different capacities, is responsible for delivering water into the distribution system.
Wastewater Reclamation Facility History
In 1945, the first steps were taken to provide for the treatment of the City of Billings wastewater. Subsequently, a 15 million gallon per day (MGD) treatment plant was constructed, and was placed in service in 1950. In the early 1970s, the treatment plant was enlarged to provide both primary and secondary treatment for an average wastewater flow of 26 MGD and a maximum flow of 40 MGD.
The Activated Sludge Process The City’s wastewater treatment plant is designed to receive 33,000 pounds per day of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5) and 42,000 pounds per day of total suspended solids (TSS).
Unit processes utilized at the City’s treatment plant includes:
- Grit removal
- Primary and secondary clarification
- Dissolved air flotation of waste activated sludge
- Gravity thickening of primary sludge
- Anaerobic digestion followed by centrifuge de-watering
The complete-mix mode of the activated sludge biological process is utilized for secondary treatment. The bio-solids, screenings, and grit are buried at the City’s sanitary landfill on a daily basis. The effluent of the City’s wastewater treatment plant is discharged into the Yellowstone River just downstream of the U.S. 87 E. Highway bridge.
The wastewater treatment plant has an on-site laboratory that is capable of performing nearly all permit required testing as well as process control samples.
Laboratory Technicians Perform Specialized Test Procedures on Wastewater Samples
Under its Montana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (MPDES) permit, the City is required to provide secondary treatment to all collected wastewater prior to discharging into the Yellowstone River, as well as meet the MPDES permit requirements for e-coli bacteria, pH, grease, total chlorine residual and effluent toxicity.
The plant also holds permits issued by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality Permits for stormwater discharges, bio-solids disposal, and air emissions generated from the methane burning generator.
The Water Reclamation Facility is currently under construction to increase capacity and upgrade treatment to remove nitrogen and phosphorus from the wastewater to meet more stringent state discharge requirements. The facility will begin removing nitrogen and phosphorus in 2019 with final completion of the construction projected for early 2020.
Water Distribution & Sanitary Sewer Collection Overview
The City’s distribution system has more than 450 miles of pipe that range from 4 inches to 42 inches in diameter, 13 booster pumping stations located around the City and 18 storage reservoirs with a total storage capacity of 40 million gallons of water.
The Distribution & Collections Division is tasked with maintaining the City’s water and wastewater mains in a timely and cost efficient manner.
Our responsibilities include maintaining:
- 477 miles of water main
- 4345 fire hydrants
- 483 miles of sanitary sewer main
- Eleven sewer lift stations
Rules & Regulations
Ditches & Drains Overview
Twenty-two ditches traverse Yellowstone County with six of those ditches located within the City limits. Many of the ditches are open waterways, however, there are several miles of culverts and pipes that carry ditch water beneath the city. In addition to ditches, there are also a series of open canals and piping that carry excess water away from the city during times of flooding, irrigation field runoff or for discharge of stormwater; these are called drains and are in various locations throughout the city. Ditches and drains are a valuable amenity to both the City and neighborhoods by providing natural water features, controlling stormwater runoff, and providing trail corridors.
Where does ditch water eventually end up?
It is important realize to that several of the ditches and all of the drains eventually discharge to the Yellowstone River. Dumping of yard wastes, chemicals, trash or debris can potentially cause flooding within the ditches and drains, backups in the City’s stormwater collection system, as well as pollute the Yellowstone River.
Who owns and maintains ditches?
The main ditches within the county are controlled and maintained through ditch easements by private ditch companies, not the City of Billings. Permission from the ditch companies is required to divert or alter the course of the ditches, construct ditch crossings, discharge stormwater into ditches, and to use irrigation water.
More information on responsibilities of landowners adjacent to the ditches can be found HERE.
Where are ditches and drains located?
To view the ditches and drains located within Billings, click on the map link below:
Fats, Oils & Grease (FOG) OverviewAll food service establishments that are connected to public sewers must have an approved grease system, such as grease traps, interceptors and other devices that keep fats, oils, grease (FOG) and food debris out of sewer pipes.
FOG is a problem for food service establishments, as FOG can buildup and clog sewer pipes and cause costly overflows and backups within businesses. It is bad for business and bad for public health and the environment.
When fats, oils or grease (FOG) enter the sewer lines, it cools, solidifies and sticks to the insides of the pipes, trapping food particles and other debris. Over time, this mass continues to grow until it obstructs the flow of wastewater and causes sewage to back up.
Additional InformationAdditional information is located in the City’s FOG Brochure, below:
IT’S THE LAWSection 26-604 of the Billings Municipal City Code (BMCC) specifies that unless prior written authorization is provided by the city, it is unlawful to discharge or cause to be discharged into the waste disposal station any industrial wastes, radioactive wastes, corrosive wastes, explosive mixtures, unpolluted waters, petroleum oils, mineral oils, non-biodegradable cutting oils, chemical wastes, toxic or poisonous substances, floatable fats, wax and grease.
Kitchen Best Management Practices
- Clean vent hoods and filters regularly
- Protect drains with a screen
- Prevent spills of fats, oils and grease
- Dry scrape leftovers into a trash bin, not the sink
- Empty trash bins before they overflow
- Clean and cover outdoor recycling area
- Keep records of cleaning, inspections and service
- Train staff on Best Management Practices to keep FOG out of sewer pipes
- Don’t connect dishwashers to the grease system
- Don’t put degreasers in the system (they just push FOG into sewers)
- Don’t wash kitchen equipment outdoors
- Don’t allow FOG into storm drains, catch basins, etc.
- Don’t improperly dispose of fats, oils and grease
What is Stormwater?Typical Stormwater found in the City’s storm drain system is water from precipitation that flows across the ground and pavement when it rains, snows or when ice melts. The water seeps into the ground or drains into what we call storm sewers. These are the drains you see at street corners or at low points on the sides of your streets.Collectively, the draining water is called stormwater runoff and is a concern to us in commercial and industrial sites, as well as your neighborhood, because of the pollutants it carries.
Yellowstone River Intakes and Outfalls
According to the 1996 National Water Quality Inventory, stormwater runoff is a leading source of water pollution. Stormwater runoff can harm surface waters such as rivers, lakes, and streams which in turn cause or contribute to water quality standards being exceeded.Stormwater runoff can change natural hydrologic patterns, accelerate stream flows, destroy aquatic habitats, and elevate pollutant concentrations and loadings. Development substantially increases impervious surfaces thereby increasing runoff from city streets, driveways, parking lots, and sidewalks, on which pollutants from human activities settle.
Common pollutants in runoff include pesticides, fertilizers, oils, metals, pathogens, salt, sediment, litter and other debris are transported via stormwater and discharged - untreated - to water resources through storm sewer systems.
The City of Billings is a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) co-permittee with Montana Department of Transportation. The City also has a MS4 partnership with Yellowstone County. The MS4 General Permit requires permittees to develop, implement, and enforce a Stormwater Management Program (SWMP). The SWMP shall be designed to reduce the discharge of pollutants from the permitted MS4 to the Maximum Extent Practicable (MEP), to protect water quality, and satisfy the appropriate water quality requirements of the Montana Water Quality Act. The SWMP must include Best Management Practices (BMP), control techniques, good standard engineering practices, and other provision necessary to control pollutants.
The City of Billings Stormwater Program consists of BMPs from the following categories:
- Construction Runoff Management
- Post Construction Stormwater Management for New and Redevelopment
- Public Education and Outreach
- Public Participation and Involvement
- Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
- Pollution Prevention for Municipal Operations
Stormwater runoff is a significant source of water pollution on Billings west end as it transitions from agriculture to residential and commercial development. Urban development increases runoff and flushed pollutants in to the storm drain system.
The 66-acre Shiloh Conservation Area was constructed as a stormwater control and treatment complex located at the confluence of Shiloh Drain, an old agricultural drain ditch that is now functioning as a storm drain outfall, and Hogan’s Slough, a natural waterway that is also a primary drainage for the Billings west end.
A Community Resource
The Shiloh Conservation Area Balances the objectives of water quality improvement and flood control, while also providing recreational and educational benefits to the community. The site consists of sedimentation, treatment wetland cells, wet detention ponds with wetland fringe area, and a third pond at the end of the treatment chain that is stocked by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks providing an urban fishery. There is a 2 mile system of trails that runs throughout the Shiloh Conservation Area. The trail system includes a shelter at the fishing pond, a series of interpretive signs, and viewing platforms that connect directly to the Billings Heritage Trail Network.
Pollutants that enter our local waterways through the storm drain system affect water quality, make swimming potentially unsafe, and impair fish habitat. These pollutants can be absorbed by fish possibly making their consumption harmful. Dumping anything, accidentally or purposely, into a gutter, ditch, or storm drain is illegal and violators can be issued civil penalties. These illegal actions are known as Illicit Discharges.
Illicit Discharge Examples
- Dumping household chemicals
- Dumping leaves and yard waste
- Dumping motor oil
- Sanitary waste water (sewage)
- Car wash waste waters
- Litter and garbage
- Pet waste
- Sediment from construction sites
What Can you do?
- Dispose of paint cleaners and other household chemicals according to label directions
- When at home, wash your car so that wastewater drains to grass, not the storm drain system
- Promptly clean up after your pet
- Recycle used motor oil at participating centers
- Vegetate bare areas to reduce soil erosion
Illicit Discharge Detection And Elimination (IDDE)
To Improve our water quality and to stay in compliance with state and federal regulations, the City of Billings has adopted an Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE) Ordinance. This ordinance prohibits pollutants from entering our local waters, regulates connections to the storm sewer systems, and outlines enforcement procedures and penalties.
To report an illicit discharge, please contact: 406-247-8517