STURGIS | Authorities are investigating two apparently separate incidents of tampering involving the Bear Butte Valley Water System and two incidents of vandalism of a Bureau of Land Management outdoor restroom near Sturgis.
A $500 reward has been posted for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for an incident where Bear Butte Valley Water riser pipes north and northwest of Sturgis were filled with concrete.
Additionally, a buried BBVW 4-inch water main along Bear Butte Road north of Sturgis was punctured on Aug. 18, resulting in the loss of more than 350,000 gallons of water.
And earlier this week, Bureau of Land Management officials in Belle Fourche reported damage to a newly rebuilt vault toilet at a popular local fishing spot, the Fort Meade Reservoir, northeast of Sturgis.
The toilet had just been completely rebuilt after being severely damaged by a pair of improvised explosives, called sparkler bombs, set off in the toilet last July, said BLM field office manager Lori “Chip” Kimball.
Dennis Kinslow, Bear Butte Valley Water system manager, said a system customer north of Sturgis reported a loss of water pressure about 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18.
In trying to isolate the apparent leak, BBVW employees found concrete in riser tubes that allow access to shut-off valves.
Employees were able to shut off the flow of water after chipping the concrete away, Kinslow said.
“The cement was to make it difficult,” he said. “It didn’t do any structural damage other than the time involved.”
Kinslow said the leak was pinpointed on Aug. 19 after a rancher along Bear Butte Road reported water in an alfalfa field.
Workers recovered a makeshift tool used to punch a silver-dollar-sized hole in the buried 4-inch water main, and were able to restore water service within a few hours.
“It was a well-thought plan. It took some effort and time,” Kinslow said of the damage. “There was nothing accidental about it.”
Damage to the system, which serves about 270 rural customers north and east of Sturgis, totaled about $2,800, not counting the loss of water, but penalties could be steep for anyone charged in the case, Kinslow said.
Tampering with a public water system is a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines, he said.
In the latest incident of vandalism at Fort Meade Reservoir, Kimball said replacement of the vault toilet had just been completed on Oct. 18, only for the facility to be hit again sometime between Friday, Oct. 19 and Tuesday of this week.
Toilet paper dispensers and air fresheners were ripped from the concrete wall or smashed and thrown into the toilet, she said.
There was also an attempt to burn paint and caulking inside the toilet, which had to be torn down and replaced at a cost of $50,000 after detonation of two sparkler bombs over the Fourth of July holiday.
“They did some pretty significant damage to a brand-new facility,” Kimball said. “They didn’t bomb it this time, which is good.”
Both incidents remain under investigation, Kinslow and Kimball said.
Information on the ongoing investigation or other suspicious activity involving the Bear Butte Valley Water System can be reported by calling 911 or 605-206-0703.
Any information the public can provide in the toilet vandalism can be reported to the BLM Belle Fourche field office at 605-892-7000.
“It’s a bad situation,” Kimball said. “Not only do we not want the vandalism, but now we have a facility that is not available to the public.”