Arvin is home to approximately 20,000 people, the majority of which are low-income Latinos. It is known for its large agricultural sector, which was heavily impacted during the drought. Arvin has not had access to safe drinking water for at least 11 years. All 6 available wells contain arsenic at levels that exceed the federal health standard.
Joaquin Duran (pictured left) has lived in Arvin for 10 of those years years. Prior to living in Arvin, he lived in the Bay area, “I moved to Arvin to be with my wife's family. Upon arrival, I saw the drastic difference between the two areas and surrounding communities. I remember not being able to sit outside my yard because of the polluted airs’ strong smell everywhere.” Joaquin said. "I learned that the water was contaminated with arsenic. I felt that was unacceptable... I right away began to get involved in community work regarding groundwater contamination and engaging the community to join me.” Joaquin is a member of the Committee for Better Arvin, and helped Arvin secure water filters for its citizens.
Water security has been a difficult problem to solve because of lack of attention and response from government agencies. One barrier that Arvin has faced is in mobilizing community members. “Everyone was already conformed to the idea that bad air and water was something that couldn’t be changed, so reversing that (idea) took a lot of effort,” Joaquin said. “Community engagement lacked; I remember talking to a lot of community members, street by street, getting them involved and engaged through meetings and flyers.... I also remember doing Radio Bilingual and TV interviews to help get the word out about the issues facing my community. ” Joaquin has seen huge successes through this work. “I like the unity among the community. This wasn't the case several years ago. I enjoy seeing community members helping one another,” he said. Joaquin is also proud of other water victories in Arvin. He helped to have water filters installed in schools, so that children would have access to healthy drinking water. “I have kids... and I am happy that one of our victories has been having filters in our schools. My kids stopped drinking sugary beverages and lost 13 lbs after drinking clean water.” However, Joaquin still feels that improvements can be made at schools because the water from the drinking fountain comes out hot because of the plumbing pipes heating throughout the day.
“My proudest moment was getting the Superfund money from the state and the tap filter installation program (in schools)…” Joaquin believes that water safety work will continue. He hopes that four new wells are completed, and that the old wells contaminated by pesticides and dairy byproducts are closed.
To help with these goals, CWC has helped Arvin implement a plan to replace its wells with new wells in areas with lower arsenic levels. Arvin secured Prop. 84 funding to with this project, and phased construction of the replacement wells is underway and expected to take 2-3 years to complete.