U.S. EPA Announces Drinking Water System of Arvin, California Has Returned to Compliance with Arsenic Safety Standard
KERN COUNTY (October 13, 2021) Yesterday evening, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) announced at a joint press conference that Arvin Community Services District (the District) has come into compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act arsenic health standard.
The District partnered with both the EPA and State Water Board to reach this goal through federal and state funding for multi-year arsenic mitigation projects that produced new water well facilities.
The District’s drinking water system serves approximately 20,000 residents of Arvin, which is an overburdened community in Kern County. The water system is supplied by groundwater, which contains naturally occurring arsenic. Drinking high levels of arsenic over many years may increase the chance of lung, bladder, and skin cancers, as well as heart disease, diabetes, and neurological damage.
“For many years, Central Valley communities such as Arvin have struggled to meet drinking water health standards for arsenic,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Jordan. “By bringing the system into full compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, the District is doing its part to protect human health and provide safe drinking water to the community.”
“Today is a milestone for Arvin and a source of encouragement for other communities throughout the state who lack access to clean and safe drinking water and are working to achieve it,” said Joaquin Esquivel, Chair of the State Water Board. “Mapping, funding and implementing sustainable solutions to contamination issues can be a complex and lengthy undertaking, and we have a generational opportunity and imperative to accelerate this work. The District’s perseverance now ensures greater protection of the community’s health and Arvin’s long-term drought resilience.”
“Working on the Arsenic Mitigation Project and the Brown and Bryant Superfund Site has been a very challenging and humbling experience, which makes the completion of these projects even more satisfying for the community,” said General Manager Raul Barraza, Jr.
“The Board of Directors and staff are very excited that through the actions of the District, with assistance from the State Water Board and the EPA, the quality of the District’s water supply is the best it has ever had!”, stated Board President Maria M. Alvarez.
In October 2008, EPA ordered the District to ensure residents would have access to safe drinking water by complying with the arsenic safety standard of 10 parts per billion.
The District agreed to:
- Implement an arsenic mitigation project.
- Conduct quarterly meetings and submit quarterly reports to EPA.
- Drill and complete five new groundwater wells.
- Provide alternative drinking water to their customers by installing three drinking water vending machines.
- Conduct quarterly water quality monitoring of drinking water.
The District -- with funding from EPA and the State Water Board -- has been working to construct new wells that would meet drinking water standards. The State Water Board contributed approximately $20 million for the drilling, construction and development of five new wells from 2010 to present. The construction included equipping the wells with pumps, motors, piping and other materials to connect the wells to the existing distribution system.
The District also received funding from EPA in 2017 to replace a drinking water well threatened by contamination from the Brown and Bryant Superfund Site. The District removed the threatened well and constructed a new well farther from the site. For nearly three decades, the Brown and Bryant Site, located off of South Derby Road in Arvin, housed an agricultural distribution facility for pesticides and other agricultural chemicals that released chemicals into the soil and groundwater.