High levels of arsenic found in Arvin High School’s drinking fountains
By Christina Lopez, originally posted on August 11, 2016
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – It’s back to school season and in less than a week, one of the largest schools in the Kern High School District will welcome back students with high levels of arsenic running through the school’s pipes.
Last Spring, Arvin found high traces of arsenic in its water. Immediately, arsenic filters were installed at sites throughout the city. Now months later, Arvin High is still without safe drinking water.
One of the largest high school campuses in the district with more than 2500 students. Last April, the city tested positive for high levels of arsenic in its water, an on-going problem within this rural farm-labor community.
Following testing, the Arvin Community Services District issued a statement informing residents the water was unsafe to drink long-term, but noting the situation was not an emergency. Immediately, over 80 point-of-use arsenic filters were installed through the initiative Agua for all a partnership shared among multiple agencies and stakeholders in south Kern. Agua for all provides outlying communities like Arvin access to safe drinking water in between finding a long-term solution.
When the Kern High School District heard about these findings last spring, it began working with the rural community assistance coalition to begin bringing in arsenic filters to Arvin High, the only campus in the district with high arsenic levels in its water, but talks stalled.
“What happened was, when they came out, when the RCAC came out and was working in Arvin to install filters at other locations, they did visit Arvin High School and then from September until the Spring time, there just wasn’t any communication between Arvin High School and the district or Arvin High, the district and RCAC, so in the Spring we contacted RCAC to see if there’s anything we could do to get the ball rolling,” says Matt Guinn.
Earlier this year the district sent letters to Arvin High parents explaining the water situation. “It’s not the location of the high school that determines what we do or when we do it. All of our schools, all of our students, all of our staff are very important to us and it really was a matter of studying the arsenic issue; seeing what was available to us in terms of technology and then making a plan to move forward because it’s not necessarily a project that you do once and walk away from. It’s a project that’s going to be maintained until Arvin can rectify their water situation. we knew, based off Arvin CSD’s statement that it wasn’t an emergency, per se, but we also weren’t looking the other way and saying this is something we didn’t need to address. we know we need to address it and we think we had a good plan to do that.”
The district ordered filters last month hoping to have them installed at Arvin High in time for the start of school next Wednesday, but the filter manufacturer says the filters are on back order.
The district says it hopes to have those new water filters installed by mid August. In the meantime, it will deliver five pallets of bottled water to the campus and replenish as needed until those filters arrive.