By Amanda Gomez
ABC23 News - Kero Bakersfield
ARVIN, Calif. - Students in Arvin have been dealing with unsafe drinking water for years, but now a private health foundation is working to change that.
The Arvin Union School District received a grant from The California Endowment to provide students with clean drinking water. The district will be installing filters on water fountains at the El Camino Real Elementary School to filter out arsenic and nitrates.
“We are going to be filtering regular drinking water at the fountains and cooking water at all four of our school sites as well as the family resource center and warehouse,” said Michelle McLean, Superintendent for Arvin Union School District.
The California Endowment will also be installing water stations on campus for students to fill their reusable water bottles.
“We know that families are spending upwards of ten percent of their income to buy bottled water and it’s just not right. It’s unfair to ask low-income families to buy bottled water and then also pay a water bill on top of that,” said Annalisa Robles, Program Manager with The California Endowment.
"I drink more water than anything else,” said third grader Lauren Gayer.
"They say water is important because sugar is bad for you,” said third grader Ava Martinez.
The California Endowment will be installing the filters on September 15th. Robles told 23ABC unsafe drinking water is a big issue in rural communities in South Kern County and that is the reason the foundation chose Arvin for their program.
“They've been asking for this for decades. Unsafe water can cause connections to health issues such as cancer and thyroid problems and others,” said Robles.
Robles also told 23ABC the foundation has plans to install water stations at schools in the Lamont District, Vineland, Greenfield, as well as public parks and community health centers.
McLean and Robles were recently invited to the White House where first lady Michelle Obama recognized them for their efforts and the launch of the program as she pushes her Drink Up campaign to encourage more people to drink water.
The Agua4all program is a state-wide effort to help communities with unsafe drinking water.
For more information on programs offered by the California Endowment click here.
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Water Technology Online
(2/6/2014) TUSTIN, Calif. — The Pacific Water Quality Association (PWQA) has announced that it is donating $2,500 to the Community Water Center (CWC) to assist in addressing the unsafe drinking water crises in California’s disadvantaged communities, according to a press release.
The CWC is an advocacy group whose mission is to work towards all communities having access to safe, clean and affordable water by building strategic grassroots programs to address water challenges in disadvantaged communities, noted the release.
“The PWQA is impressed with the good work of the Community Water Center and we applaud their project in Monson, California, which has helped that small community with a useful tool help manage its nitrate contamination problem. As water treatment professionals, we understand the fundamental importance of clean water to our lives,” noted PWQA President John Foley.
The PWQA has also been active with California legislation that will streamline access to the most state of the art water purification devices for all Californian’s while at the same time maintaining compliance with governmental and industry standards, the release reported.
According to the release, many water treatment technologies are available for use in some of the state’s small, disadvantaged communities; however, use of these devices is limited because of existing state regulations.
By Alice Daniel
(11/14/2013) ARVIN — Thousands of students in the south Central Valley who didn’t have access to clean drinking water in their schools will now be able to quench their thirst safely after several organizations and companies that make water filters formed an unusual partnership.
More than 3,500 students in four public schools and five Head Start centers in the small towns of Arvin and Lamont southeast of Bakersfield in Kern County no longer have to worry about unsafe levels of arsenic in their drinking water.
“We really see this project as a model for other schools and communities that are struggling with contaminated water,” said Shen Huang, a technical analyst for the Community Water Center. “It’s a pretty creative solution. A lot of coordination went into it. If you work together you really can make a difference.”
CWC worked with the Committee for a Better Arvin, the Arvin Union School District and the Community Action Partnership of Kern on the project. The California Endowment is a major funder of the effort, and several manufacturers provided filters at no cost.
Arsenic levels in some areas of the south valley are twice as high as the EPA’s legal safety limit. “There are public health effects to chronic exposure of arsenic,” said Huang. It can cause cancer, Type 2 diabetes and reduced mental functioning in children.
Salvador Partida, co-founder of the environmental group Committee for a Better Arvin, has been pushing for filters in the school district for years. “It’s a real breakthrough, a tremendous help for these kids,” he said. “It’s not a permanent fix but at least it’s a start.”
Still, he wants to see a long-term solution for the entire town. “The only thing we can use the water we pay for is for our grass and to bathe.”
Widespread Problem in Valley and Beyond
Contaminated drinking water is not uncommon in the Central Valley. Dozens of small communities grapple with the problem. “It’s not limited to Arvin or Lamont,” said Huang. “Arsenic is a widespread issue, as well as nitrates.”
Arsenic is naturally occurring in the water in Kern County, but it can also come from practices like mining or chemical treatments, said Huang. Other contaminants, such as nitrates, are the result of decades of intense industrial agriculture.
“It’s a story that plays out all over the region,” said John Capitman, executive director of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at Fresno State. Chemical fertilizers, pesticides and animal waste have seeped into the aquifers and then the groundwater for about 70 years, he said.
Some of these communities actually started out as labor camps for farm workers. “The social costs of food production in this region have really been borne by the laborers and residents,” he said.
A 2012 study by the University of California-Davis estimated that a quarter million people in the Tulare Basin in the Central Valley (one of the country’s leading dairy producers) and the Salinas Valley were at risk of nitrate contamination in their drinking water. High levels of nitrates have been linked to a potentially fatal condition called blue baby syndrome, caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood.
Many California towns operate their own small water districts. The volunteer boards often lack the technical expertise and the political clout to get clean drinking water, said Capitman. It’s also expensive to run treatment plants. According to the UC-Davis study, “Treatment and alternative supplies for small systems are more costly as they lack economies of scale.”
Even With Budget Cuts, School Districts Find Solutions
Clean drinking water in schools is not a given, according to a report by California Food Policy Advocates on Improving Water Consumption in Schools.
The report highlights the fact that in the Central Valley, unsafe tap water poses a “true public health concern” and that even providing filters “may be infeasible or too costly for cash-strapped schools.”
Michelle McLean, superintendent of the Arvin Union School District, said water contamination is a problem that causes a lot of tension and stress for districts that have already suffered major budget cuts. “Public schools, especially rural or high-poverty districts, usually don’t have the financial resources to provide alternative sources of drinking water,” said McLean. Before her district got filters, students brought bottled water from home. There were also water dispensers at each school but they were expensive to refill.
Now the schools not only filter the water in the water fountains, they also each have two hydration stations where students can refill their water bottles. “Parents can be assured that at least at school their kids will have clean water,” said McLean.
McLean said districts should work with public and private entities to apply for grants, get funding and find solutions. It’s also important to do the groundwork. She said her district and the community spent a lot of time researching the right filters for arsenic. “We had a really good work group and we started looking at all our options,” she said.
Getting the right filter is critical. “There’s a lot of sharks preying on our communities,” said Huang. “Some people will say their filters will take out anything. But filters are very specific to the contaminant. There’s not a one size fits all.”
The filters for this project are certified by the California Department of Public Health to remove arsenic effectively. The department has a list of certified devices on its website. DPH also offers grants for interim solutions to contaminated water in communities, said Huang.
Maintenance Is Key to Success
“Preliminary water testing already shows the filters are reducing the arsenic level below the safety limit,” said Huang. “But the success of the project is really in the maintenance and operation.”
Maintenance support and training will be provided to the school staff to ensure that the filters are performing successfully. “We want our projects to be sustainable, so the schools need to know what to do,” said Huang, who will be doing some of the training.
One of the funding partners in this project, Blue Planet Network, will track the process online, including data about water quality.
“The network is essentially a space for people to share their projects, to show how one creates change in the community,” said Huang. “Seeing these children get safe drinking water is very rewarding for us and our community partners.”
By Mark Christian
(11/12/2013) LAMONT, Calif. – Five Head Start Centers, four schools and south Kern County communities of Arvin and Lamont are getting relief from arsenic contaminated water.
Community Action Partnership of Kern, the Arvin Union School District and Community Water Center working with local community groups are securing funding to deliver safe drinking water to the school sites by installing water filters at playground drinking fountains and classrooms.
Water experts say throughout out the Valley more than a hundred communities without safe drinking water are working on long term solutions to address drinking water contamination.
Many small communities water systems will have to wait years for improvements. In the meantime, residence and now schools are increasingly looking for interim measures they can take to reduce exposure to contaminants, primarily arsenic and nitrate.
In south Kern County, where many communities drinking water supplies contain arsenic over legal health standard, residence and local leaders concerned about student exposure have taken action.
Arsenic is a drinking water contaminants that can have serious health effects, such as reduced mental functioning in children; cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidneys, liver and prostrate and Type 2 diabetes
“We are working with our families and local communities to educate them about access to safe drinking water,” said Yolanda Gonzalez of Community Action Partnership.
As a result of this project, about a total of 3700 students and staff will be able to access safe drinking water and drinking water fountains and kitchen cooking areas.
By BakersfieldNow.com Staff
KBAK/KBFX – BaskersfieldNow.com
(11/07/2013) ARVIN, Calif. — A coalition addressed water contamination in some south Kern County schools.
Water filters were installed at cooking areas and drinking fountains on playgrounds and in classrooms at five Head Start centers and four schools in Arvin and Lamont.
Visalia-based Community Water Center said it teamed with Community Action Partnership of Kern, the Arvin Union School District and the Committee for A Better Arvin.
Community Water Center said many rural valley communities have unsafe drinking water, contaminated by arsenic levels over the legal health standard.
“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,” Shen Huang, technical analyst of Community Water Center, said in a news release. Community Water Center is a nonprofit 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,” Huang said.
The filters are part of a pilot program for securing immediate access to safe drinking water while long-term solutions are being pursued, the group said.
KGET-TV – KernGoldenEmpire.com
(11/07/2013) KERN COUNTY, CA – Access to clean water is a major concern in central California, where more than 100 communities in the valley don’t have it.
But, an initiative led by community groups in Kern County is helping schools in Arvin and Lamont keep their drinking water safe from arsenic.
By the end of the year, all K-8 schools and Head Start Centers in Arvin and Lamont will have water filters on the playground and classroom drinking fountains. They’ll also be in kitchens, all in an effort to get rid of arsenic.
Though it will take years to come up with a long-term solution for water contamination, this step is making a big difference
For students and staff in the Arvin Union School District, drinking from the water fountains could be dangerous.
“For some time now, the community of Arvin has had a water issue with the acceptable levels of arsenic and nitrates in the water,” said Superintendent, Dr. Michelle McLean.
Those contaminants can lead to reduced mental funtion in children, various forms of cancer, and Type 2 Diabetes.
“There have been requests made over time for us to filter the water here at the schools, but it’s really cost prohibitive, and the costs we receive from the State Department of Education and taxpayers are really meant to go toward the education,” McLean said.
So the Community Action Partnership of Kern teamed up with the school district, the Community Water Center, and the Committee for a Better Arvin to come up with a temporary solution, filters on all drinking fountains and in kitchens.
“We have to pay double for water here because we pay the water district their bill and then we have to pay for bottled water which we can’t drink the water from the tap.”
Salvador Partida says his concern is for the kids who might not be able to bring bottled water to school every day. Though he hopes for a permanent solution to the water problem, this project is a good place to start.
“It’s a band aid, but nevertheless it’s going to help maybe for the duration until we get something fixed. But, it’s worth it,” Partida said.
This project will be in place for three years at no cost to the schools or Head Starts thanks to funding from various partners.
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
By Valerie Gibbons
Visalia Times Delta – Visaliatimesdelta.com
(09/03/2013) A recent change in state rules has allowed some of the country’s poorest water districts to get emergency help while officials work to unravel years of red tape.
Dozens of small water systems throughout the county are plagued with groundwater that exceeds federal standards for nitrates, arsenic or bacteria. Many of the districts also rely on aging infrastructure that regularly sends mud or sand straight to homeowners’ taps – or doesn’t manage to deliver any water at all.
And while new emergency measures may seem like a band-aid – proposed bottled water vending machines here, new wells drilled there – officials say they’re a valued first step toward getting drinkable water to parched communities.
Paul Boyer, a community development director for Self-Help Enterprises, one of the nonprofit organizations trying to organize relief for many of the country’s beleaguered systems is optimistic the change signals the start of a new era.
“We’re making progress but we’re used to a process that takes years,” he said. “If you’re living in a community with unsafe water – and you’re paying for water that’s unsafe to drink – a few years is a very long time.”
In 2008 lawmakers passed a bill sponsored by State Sen. Don Perata (D-Oakland) that would direct $829 million in bonds to water projects throughout the state. Tucked into that bill that was $2 million that would go to Tulare, Fresno, Kern and other San Joaquin Valley counties to develop an integrated water quality and wastewater treatment program for its disadvantaged communities.
Five years later Tulare County, the Community Water Center, Self-Help Enterprises and various state agencies are almost finished with the Herculean task of identifying the challenges faced by each district. They’re also trying to develop a blueprint for a series of fixes. Planning is already in the pipeline for 16 of the county’s hardest-hit systems.
It quickly became apparent those fixes could take years – so this winter emergency funding from the California Department of Public Health was also approved for districts that are simple unable to provide safe water to their constituents. The results were almost immediate. Just a month after the emergency funding kicked in, the 80 residents of West Goshen were suddenly without water for several days after a 350-foot-section of pipe collapsed. Emergency funding from the state allowed the district to hook up to Visalia’s water company, Cal Water – at a price tag of $240,000
The community of Seville will also receive emergency help. Seville made national headlines two years ago after United Nations investigators found a dilapidated, contaminated water system and blasted the state for letting $445 million in unspent funds for drinking water sit idle.
Today, Seville is looking for a site for a test well and the state is funding the plans for a long-term solution.
“There are some planning projects that are spawning from this study,” said Ben Guiliani, executive officer of Tulare County’s Local Agency Formation Commission, the agency responsible for overseeing the county’s special districts. “It’s possible some district formations or reorganizations could come out of this process.”
In the meantime, officials are setting up a water vending machine in Seville that can handle 5-gallon jugs and searching for a test well site. The vending machine will cost about $12,000 – but there will be other expenses, said Maria Herrera, community advocacy director for Visalia’s Communit Water Center.
“We need something that will provide water for 36 months,” she said. “That’s how long it’s going to take for a solution.”
Other districts are mulling in-home filtration devices or bottled water to bridge the gap.
Permanent fixes won’t be as easy to come by. Many of the water systems simply aren’t large enough to generate money for repairs or a trained support staff. Herrera said the vast majority of the systems are managed by volunteers.
“The study is creating a space for people to talk about what’s not working.” she said. “We’re trying to find a way that volunteers don’t need to the management of the systems.”
In the meantime, critical well tests are being completed, board meetings are being held – in some cases after months of cancellations – and officials are trying to navigate the bureaucracy at the state level to bring the funding to Tulare County. In some areas with chronic water problems, like Allensworth and Alpaugh, nonprofits have stepped in with leadership training, so board members could learn to collaborate.
“That’s probably the biggest area of improvement,” said Denise Atkins, Tulare County’s administrative analyst for water resources. “In some of those communities, the oldest person is the one who takes care of the water system – even if they don’t have any water experience and the board is comprised of the few people willing to do the job. Now they can learn from one another.”
While the districts are getting more organized, attention from lawmakers and the media has helped to speed the turnaround for funding. There are five bills dealing with safe drinking water and disadvantaged communities pending the Assembly this session, three of which are sponsored by Henry Perea (D-Fresno).
“It’s a very slow process and a lot of people are tired of waiting,” Atkins said. “They just want to turn on the tap and have clean water come out.”