Arsenic in water won’t close Nevada boarding school, official says

Students are being served bottled water while several government offices work with the school to treat its water for high levels of arsenic and fluoride.
Though a physician’s report supported students’ claims that rashes on their skin was linked to the water contamination, Margot Chappel, deputy administrator for regulatory and planning services for the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, said a state epidemiologist found that evidence of the link was inconclusive.
According to a December report from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the facility’s water, which comes from a well, had fluoride levels measuring 2.9 milligrams per liter, above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recommendation that drinking water not exceed 2.0 milligrams per liter of fluoride.
The school’s water supply contained 0.032 milligrams per liter of arsenic, three times above the EPA’s recommended 0.01 milligrams per liter, though that falls below the EPA’s former cutoff of 0.05 milligrams per liter.
Updated in 2001, the newest recommendation came after the agency found that the benefits of treating water to attain lower levels of arsenic, also found naturally in the soil, outweighed the costs of treatment, Gerrity said.
“It would be costly to achieve.” Under 0.05 milligrams per liter, the EPA does not anticipate that arsenic-contaminated water would cause short-term effects.
At its highest, the arsenic levels in the water sat at 0.104 milligrams per liter.
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Division of Environmental Protection has been working with Northwest Academy since January 2017 to treat its water for contaminants, spokeswoman JoAnn Kittrell said in an emailed statement Monday.
The health department gave parents and guardians the opportunity to pull students from the school Thursday, Chappel said.
“I flew at 6 in the morning on Thursday from Reno to Las Vegas and drove out to the Amargosa Valley with the explicit purpose of looking to see if the place should be shut down,” Chappel said Monday.

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