By David Acosta
I am a junior at Arvin High School. In all my three years here my peers and I have rarely drank water from the school fountains because the water is contaminated with arsenic.
So I was happy to learn recently that Arvin High School may be next in line to install filtered fountains on campus. I hope this happens soon, so that I can spend my last year not having to rely on bottled water or sugary drinks to quench my thirst .
The plans include installing point of use filters on existing water fountains throughout the school to reduce or remove arsenic. Similar systems are already in place in schools and other sites across South Kern, thanks to efforts by the non-profit Rural Community Assistance Corporation and the Community Water Center, which have teamed up to provide access to safe, clean drinking water in rural communities across California.
Arsenic is a known carcinogen prevalent in water throughout South Kern County. The chemical compound is linked to diabetes, multiple forms of cancer and impaired cognitive development among youth under 20.
Because of California’s ongoing drought the concentration of arsenic in the local water has nearly tripled.
In 2014, Arvin High School installed two Hydration Stations in the school’s cafeteria. But the stations are only available during break periods and lunch. The rest of the time the cafeteria is closed and the stations are inaccessible.
Making things worse, the stations are in the middle of campus, so students in classes further away don’t have time to wait in the long lines that form to get water and get back to class before the bell rings. This can be a problem especially during PE, when students are sweating under the heat of the valley sun.
Finally, these Hydration Stations must be refilled and restocked with new Styrofoam cups every morning in order for students to be able to use them, a requirement that is not only bad for the environment but is also an unnecessary expense when you consider the alternative filters.
Because of the current situation, many of my classmates buy water or juice, forcing families to spend money on things the school should provide. I know some students who go without water during the whole school day.
This is why I applaud Arvin High administrators for taking the initiative in replacing or upgrading the already strategically placed water fountains around the campus with arsenic reducing filters and water bottle refilling stations.
This one simple step is a small price to pay to ensure students have access to safe drinking water and the peace of mind that would bring to the community.
David Acosta, 17, is a junior at Arvin High School. He joined South Kern Sol’s youth reporting team in April.