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Project will bring clean city water to Nile Garden

Construction will soon begin on a project that will finally deliver clean drinking water to Nile Garden Elementary School on an ongoing basis.

The Manteca Unified Board of Education voted 6-1 – with trustee Nancy Teicheira dissenting – on Tuesday night to accept the water service agreement between the district, the City of Manteca, and the State of California that will allow for construction of a water hookup to the rural elementary campus that for years has had to provide students with bottled water because of high arsenic levels detected in the well that serves the facility.

Of the $6.4 million needed to complete the long-planned project, $5 million will come from the State of California while the City of Manteca will pick up the remainder of the tab. The project will further extend the city’s 12-inch waterline half a mile further south to connect to a 4-inch waterline that would be laid beneath the street for the final 1.3 miles to the site.

The project also calls for a 10,000-gallon high-density polyurethane tank, a 270,000-gallon steel tank, two pump stations and additional waterlines. The project would also drill an additional well on city-owned property that would be equipped with a pump, well head water treatment and electrical service and controls.

Because Nile Garden would initially be the only customer served by the waterline extension, the meter for the school will be located offsite, and gradually moved towards the school if and when development in the area occurs. According to Manteca Unified Director of Facilities Operations Aaron Bowers, such a process would involve a drastic overhaul of the entire infrastructure that is to be completed in the coming construction project, and any development would not jeopardize the school’s ability to receive clean, fresh drinking water.

But not everybody on the board was thrilled with the idea of connecting to the city’s water system.

Teicheira, who at the end of her current term will have been on the board for two decades, pressed Bowers about whether the city would require annexation of Nile Garden into the city limits in order to connect to the city’s water supply – citing the example of the district’s administrative complex and school farm on Louise Avenue that was forced to annex in order to connect to Manteca’s sewer and water services.

Bowers said that there is no immediate plan to annex into the city limits, which Teicheira questioned before ultimately voting against the proposal. 

The arsenic levels in the groundwater that previously served the site was measured in 2017 at 25 parts per billion – more than 2.5 times the maximum containment level set by the State of California. As a result, the district currently pays to bring in bottled water for students to drink on campus, and has discontinued the use of water fountains that were previously served by the well.

While arsenic is naturally occurring in groundwater in the Central Valley, agricultural pollution is believed to play a part in tainting groundwater sources when chemicals are used over an extended period – something that was exacerbated by the fact that the State of California lowered the acceptable threshold for arsenic, which rendered the well that serves the school unfit for student consumption.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.