San Tan Valley K-8 school shuts down water fountains after nitrate warning

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Copper Basin K-8 turned off the water fountains and not using tap water to cook the lunchroom food due to worries about high nitrate levels. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Copper Basin K-8 turned off the water fountains and not using tap water to cook the lunchroom food due to worries about high nitrate levels. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality tested the water and let Johnson Utilities know their nitrate levels were too high. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality tested the water and let Johnson Utilities know their nitrate levels were too high. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Portions of the Copper Basin Subdivision are affected. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Portions of the Copper Basin Subdivision are affected. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
SAN TAN VALLEY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

High nitrate levels have been found in San Tan Valley's water supply for the second time in less than six months. 

This week, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality tested the water and let Johnson Utilities know their nitrate levels were too high. Portions of the Copper Basin Subdivision are affected.

"I have to go buy water," said Copper Basin resident Kathi Hammond. "I have buy water to cook with. I have to buy water to drink. It's a huge inconvenience."

As a parent of a student who attends Copper Basin K-8, she also got a voicemail from the principal saying as a precaution, they are turning off the water fountains and not using tap water to cook the lunchroom food. 

The EPA says infants who consume water with high nitrate levels can get sick. 

"I'm a little disappointed actually because this is not the first time it's happened, and so I would love to see Johnson Ranch make some needed changes," Hammond said. 

[READ MORE: ADEQ: High nitrate levels found in Pinal Co. water; Johnson Utilities says water is safe]

Johnson Utilities said they had already shut off the affected well prior to hearing from the ADEQ, and that it will remain out of service until they can develop alternate solutions.

In the meantime, Copper Basin K-8 is asking for donations of water bottles.

The ADEQ sent us the following statement:

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality shares the community's concern about the quality of their drinking water and that's why we work closely with regulated public water systems to ensure public water systems provide their customers with timely information and notices about drinking water quality issues as well as work with systems to address identified issues. 

Arizona public water systems are responsible for providing customers with drinking water that meets all federal health-based requirements and standards through conducting proper operation, maintenance, monitoring, and reporting activities, as well as educating and informing customers about the quality of drinking water they are providing. 

ADEQ learned that Johnson Utilities' (Pinal County) water had high levels of nitrate through our Monitoring Assistance Program contractor earlier this week. Nitrate in drinking water can come from natural, industrial or agricultural sources (including septic systems and run-off) and its levels can vary throughout the year. It's important to know that nitrate is a pollutant present in Johnson Utilities' source water, so elevated levels are not associated with how the system is operated.

Per federal safe drinking water act requirements, ADEQ informed Johnson Utilities of their requirement to conduct confirmation sampling and testing for nitrate. Johnson Utilities' test results confirmed the presence of nitrate higher than the federal standard, which triggered the requirement that they notify their customers about the nitrate issue. ADEQ provided Johnson Utilities with assistance and guidance in preparing this customer public notice, which Johnson Utilities is working to complete (I do not have the final copy).

To ensure Johnson Utilities' customers are receiving water that meets the nitrate federal standard, Johnson Utilities has notified ADEQ that they have taken the well with high nitrates offline.
 

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