BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - At least eight local schools have water containing chemicals considered unsafe for human consumption. In some cases, students drink only bottled water as a way to avoid containments.
For nearly ten years, students at a school south of Bakersfield have been drinking bottled water. The school's well has been declared by the state to be unsafe. The school's tap water contains increased levels of arsenic, uranium and at one point cyanide.
The water system serves 800 students and staff. Lakeside Union School District Superintendent Ty Bryson said the district is looking for a permanent solution.
Bryson said, "If you're a student, there are some things you just expect: to be able to go to a drinking fountain, get a drink when you want to. It's not convenient."
The California Water Resources Control Board proposed three alternatives. Its preferred method -- tasking the City of Bakersfield with providing water to the school by building a $5 million pipeline.
City Manager Alan Tandy called the pipeline a potential incredible waste of taxpayer money. The city favors a filtration system. Tandy said this would cost $60,000 initially and $20,000 annually to maintain.
But state water officials contest that price. The state estimate the city's proposal would cost about $2 million.
Water filtration is a task bryson said the school is not prepared for.
Bryson said, "We're in the business of educating students, we're not in the water business and we don't want to be in the water business. We want to be a customer and we want to pay our water bill and get clean safe drinking water. That's the ideal situation for us."
Lakeside School has 39 violations in the last ten years -- nearly all for unsafe arsenic levels. The most recent results in August.
At least eight local school water systems tested positive in the recent years for containments unsafe for human consumption.
Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine said advanced testing and stricter laws have changed the way water systems are regulated.
Constantine said, "Water is being monitored and tested at a far greater level than it's even been in the past and it allows us to ensure that more and more people are protected and safe."
Constantine said of the more 13,500 active water wells in our county, 127 initially exceeded the arsenic Maximum Containment Level and 25 exceeded the nitrate MCL.
Constantine said, "In almost all cases, our local drinking water is safe."
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