No other campus in Manteca Unified has the troubles Nile Garden School is having with drinking water.
Not even New Haven School on East Lathrop Road off Austin Road whose water supply comes from wells, just like Nile Garden. Both sites have rural settings – they are surrounded by agricultural lands, with residents living in scattered farm houses in the vicinity of the school also relying on well water.
Where the similarities part ways has to do with what’s in the water. The high arsenic content in Nile Garden’s well water makes it unsafe for human consumption. A drilling test that was completed in December 2013 confirmed the unsafe levels of arsenic as well as other contaminants in the water.
There is no such problem at New Haven School where the wells are producing “viable water, good water,” said Deputy Superintendent Clark Burke.
New regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicate that for water to be potable, the arsenic content should be at least 10 ppb (parts per billion), or lower than that. That is not the case at Nile Garden School, which is the reason for the bottled water rationing that has been going for about three years ago.
The arsenic level standard in drinking water was set in 1974 when Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, the law which mandated the EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water that would not create any adverse health effects to humans.
According to the EPA, the major sources of arsenic in drinking water include runoff from orchards and erosion of natural deposits in the ground.
Meeting EPA arsenic standards in drinking water at Nile Garden School has been the reason behind ongoing discussions in the district level on how best to solve that problem. The worst-case scenario if no solution is deemed viable is to close the school.
However, other alternative solutions are being considered at the same time to avoid that drastic step. One being looked at is connection to city water. Talks going on right now between school district and city officials are focused on how best to deliver the water to the school site.
Another solution that has been thrown into the discussions is the construction of an arsenic treatment plant. However, like the first alternative, funding would be a critical consideration – if not more critical than procuring potable from the city.
“We’re weighing all options,” but it will be the city Planning Department which will eventually make the final decision as to possibly connecting Nile Garden to city water, Burke said.