FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Schools with arsenic contamination soon to have safe drinking water
Community-driven effort partners with many groups to install water filters in schools
(11/06/2013) KERN COUNTY, CA – Five Head Start Centers and four schools in the south Kern County communities of Arvin and Lamont are getting relief from arsenic contamination in public schools. Community Action Partnership of Kern (CAPK), the Arvin Union School District, and Community Water Center worked with local community group,Committee for A Better Arvin (CBA), and a broad set of funding and in-kind donation partners to deliver safe drinking water to local school sites by installing water filters at playground and classroom drinking fountains sites and kitchen cooking areas. This effort is seen as a pilot model for securing immediate access to safe drinking water while long-term solutions are being pursued.
Throughout the Valley more than a hundred communities without safe water are working on long-term solutions to address drinking water contamination. Unfortunately, many of these small community water systems will have to wait years for improvements. In the meantime, residents and now schools are increasingly looking for interim measures they can take to reduce exposure to common contaminants, primarily arsenic and nitrate.
In south Kern County, where many community drinking water supplies contain arsenic over the legal health standard, residents and local leaders concerned about student exposure have taken action. Arsenic is a drinking water contaminant that can have serious health effects, such as reduced mental functioning in children; cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidneys, liver and prostate; and Type 2 diabetes.
“We are working with our families and local communities to educate them about access to safe drinking water,” says Yolanda Gonzales, CAPK’s Director of Child Education and Development Services, which runs the Head Start programs where filters have already been installed.
“Since last year we have been working with the schools and Centers to assess their specific drinking water needs by developing an inventory of contamination sites and analyzing different filters on the market,” said Shen Huang, Technical Analyst of Community Water Center, a non-profit organization that works with communities that lack access to safe drinking water. “Seeing these children get safe drinking water is very rewarding for us and our community partners.”
As a result of this project, about a total of 3700 students and staff will be able to access safe drinking water at drinking water fountains and kitchen cooking areas. This project will be in place for three years and will be tracked using partner Blue Planet Network’s online platform to ensure its sustainability. This project began with the installation of filters at the Head Start Centers in September. The project was recently expanded when the Arvin District School Board recently unanimously approved the project implementation, and the Arvin Union School District will get filters by the end of December. The project supports the goals of the South Kern Building Healthy Communities strategic initiative, which helped bring a diverse group together to address the water quality issues in the region.
“We are striving to create partnership models for other school districts and communities that need temporary solutions for access to safe drinking water for students, staff, and parents, because we recognize that public schools, especially rural or high-poverty districts, usually don’t have the financial resources to provide alternative sources of drinking water,” says Dr. Michelle McLean, Superintendent of the Arvin Union School District.
The filters are certified by the California Department of Public Health to remove arsenic effectively. The filter equipment, replacement filters, installation, and water quality monitoring will be all covered with the support of project partners Kinetico Incorporated, AdEdge Water Technologies, Multipure Corporation, Helping Hands For Water, Johnson and Sons Plumbing, Western Water, and California Rural Water Association at no cost to the schools or Head Starts. Ongoing operations and maintenance support and training will also be provided to facilities staff, to ensure that the filters are performing successfully.
“While these filters are effective temporary solutions, communities and local residents ultimately want and desire safe drinking water at the tap,” said Sal Partida, President of Committee for a Better Arvin.
This project was made possible through funding from The California Endowment, Blue Planet Network and the Yahoo! Employee Foundation, and Wells Fargo.
Shen Huang, Community Water Center, (559) 733-0219
Salvador S Partida, Committee for a Better Arvin, (661) 854-7000
Dr. Michelle McLean, Arvin Union School District, (661) 854-6500
Yolanda Gonzales, Community Action Partnership of Kern, (661) 336-5236