Community Action Partnership of Kern, CWC, Kinetico, and Committee for a Better Arvin teamed up to install Point-of-Use water filters in 5 Head Start centers to treat arsenic contamination in Arvin and Lamont, farm-working communities in California.

Narrative

Problem
Arvin and Lamont are two severely disadvantaged communities in South Kern County (about 20 miles south of Bakersfield) that are comprised of primarily low-income Latino farmworkers. This area is known to have water quality issues: specifically high arsenic levels. Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and soil and also can come from industrial and agricultural activities, such as mining or arsenic-based pesticides. High levels of arsenic over time can cause health impacts like skin, lung, or kidney cancer; reduced mental functioning in children; and Type 2 diabetes. While both Arvin and Lamont’s water system have been working on a long-term solution to address these water challenges, the schools, as well as the rest of the community, will have to continue to wait a few years for safe drinking water. Although many students, parents, and community members have been concerned about water quality, spend money to buy alternative sources of water, and requested schools to put in water filters, most schools don’t have the financial resources to provide safe water across the board. Students are being exposed to arsenic and potentially are not being well hydrated.

Solution
Community Water Center (CWC), Committee for a Better Arvin (CBA), the Head Start daycare centers in Arvin and Lamont, and Kinetico Incorporated teamed up together to create a new model of how schools can provide safe water. CBA is a local grassroots environmental justice organization comprised of community leaders dedicated to improving the quality of life. The Head Starts are administered by the Community Action Partnership of Kern County (CAPK), a non-profit organization that provides a variety of services to fight poverty, including education, to low-income communities throughout Kern County. Kinetico is a manufacturer that makes Point-of-Use (POU) water filter systems that are certified by NSF and the California Department of Public Health to reduce arsenic effectively. The project team first assessed the needs of the daycare centers, explore cost-effective options for interim solutions that met their needs, and decided to implement Point-of-Use (POU) water filters at all drinking water fountains, classroom sinks, and kitchen taps. These filters are expected to be in place for three years while the local water districts are developing long-term solutions to address the high arsenic levels in the water.

Partners
This project was a collaborative process that involved the support of many different partners. CWC, CAPK leadership, and Kinetico worked together to develop a plan for implementation. The costs of the POU filter systems, replacement filters, and installation labor costs were donated in-kind by Kinetico, and the costs of initial and follow-up water quality testing were covered by CWC. Johnson and Sons, a local Kinetico dealer and certified plumber, were contracted to do the installation of the all the filter systems.

  • Impact Assessment (M&E) Phase Project completed on 30 Dec, 2013 Implementation Phase
    • android
    Shen Huang ( Community Water Center ) About 1 Year after start 9 Dec, 2013

    o&m training

    Status: Complete - Successful

    Operating Status:

    CWC trained Jeremy, the Headstarts staff responsible for filters, about proper O&M and water testing.

    • Thumb_31296
    Shen Huang ( Community Water Center ) About 1 Year after start 6 Nov, 2013

    press release

    Status: Complete - Successful

    Operating Status:

    CWC released press release about project in Headstarts/Arvin schools.

    Shen Huang ( Community Water Center ) About 1 Year after start 24 Oct, 2013

    BPN site visit

    Status: Complete - Successful

    Operating Status:

    Blue Planet Network came to visit the San Diego and Alicante Head Start Centers. CWC and Johnson and Sons Plumbing were also present. CWC took water quality samples to confirm effectiveness of filter.

    Shen Huang ( Community Water Center ) About 1 Year after start 22 Oct, 2013

    Big picture planning

    Status: Complete - Successful

    Operating Status:

    Shen met with CAPK admin leadership to talk about big picture planning for O&M and education for the filter project. Training and education is needed for parents and staff.

    Shen Huang ( Community Water Center ) 11 Months after start 30 Aug, 2013

    Installation of filters

    Status: Complete - Successful

    Operating Status:

    Installation of filters completed at Head Starts.

    Shen Huang ( Community Water Center ) 11 Months after start 20 Aug, 2013

    Filter installations

    Status: Complete - Successful

    Operating Status:

    Filter installations continue for the Head start centers from 10/20-10/22.

    Shen Huang ( Community Water Center ) 10 Months after start 16 Jul, 2013

    Kinetico partnership donation

    Status: Complete - Successful

    Operating Status:

    Kinetico has confirmed partnership to donate filters at all 5 Head Start Centers.

    Shen Huang ( Community Water Center ) 9 Months after start 14 Jun, 2013

    inventory of headstarts completed

    Status: Complete - Successful

    Operating Status:

    CWC finished creating inventory of drinking water faucet locations of all 5 Headstarts, to inform on how many POU filters will be needed.

  • Implementation Phase Project started on 1 Oct, 2012 Preparation Phase

Community Action Partnership of Kern, CWC, Kinetico, and Committee for a Better Arvin teamed up to install Point-of-Use water filters in 5 Head Start centers to treat arsenic contamination in Arvin and Lamont, farm-working communities in California.

Narrative

Problem
Arvin and Lamont are two severely disadvantaged communities in South Kern County (about 20 miles south of Bakersfield) that are comprised of primarily low-income Latino farmworkers. This area is known to have water quality issues: specifically high arsenic levels. Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and soil and also can come from industrial and agricultural activities, such as mining or arsenic-based pesticides. High levels of arsenic over time can cause health impacts like skin, lung, or kidney cancer; reduced mental functioning in children; and Type 2 diabetes. While both Arvin and Lamont’s water system have been working on a long-term solution to address these water challenges, the schools, as well as the rest of the community, will have to continue to wait a few years for safe drinking water. Although many students, parents, and community members have been concerned about water quality, spend money to buy alternative sources of water, and requested schools to put in water filters, most schools don’t have the financial resources to provide safe water across the board. Students are being exposed to arsenic and potentially are not being well hydrated.

Solution
Community Water Center (CWC), Committee for a Better Arvin (CBA), the Head Start daycare centers in Arvin and Lamont, and Kinetico Incorporated teamed up together to create a new model of how schools can provide safe water. CBA is a local grassroots environmental justice organization comprised of community leaders dedicated to improving the quality of life. The Head Starts are administered by the Community Action Partnership of Kern County (CAPK), a non-profit organization that provides a variety of services to fight poverty, including education, to low-income communities throughout Kern County. Kinetico is a manufacturer that makes Point-of-Use (POU) water filter systems that are certified by NSF and the California Department of Public Health to reduce arsenic effectively. The project team first assessed the needs of the daycare centers, explore cost-effective options for interim solutions that met their needs, and decided to implement Point-of-Use (POU) water filters at all drinking water fountains, classroom sinks, and kitchen taps. These filters are expected to be in place for three years while the local water districts are developing long-term solutions to address the high arsenic levels in the water.

Partners
This project was a collaborative process that involved the support of many different partners. CWC, CAPK leadership, and Kinetico worked together to develop a plan for implementation. The costs of the POU filter systems, replacement filters, and installation labor costs were donated in-kind by Kinetico, and the costs of initial and follow-up water quality testing were covered by CWC. Johnson and Sons, a local Kinetico dealer and certified plumber, were contracted to do the installation of the all the filter systems.

Sustainability

Creating and measuring long-term impact

Capacity building is key to the sustainability of this filter project. CWC trained the Head Start facilities staff in charge of maintaining the filters on proper O&M and arsenic water quality testing sampling. During the first year of operations, CWC will conduct a monthly survey to check-in with the facilities staff to learn about on-site O&M conducted and help troubleshoot as necessary. Additionally, in early 2014 CWC is planning to educate the community residents and parents about the health impacts of arsenic contamination so that they can 1) understand what arsenic contamination is and how to prevent exposure, 2) learn about this filter project to have interim safe water in the Head Start centers and know that their children have access to safe water, and 3) get connected to participate in advocacy and decision-making processes throughout the development of long-term solutions.

This project implemented the POU filter system Kinetico K5. It was a priority of the project to be sustainable and affordable to the Head Start Centers, so the costs of operations and maintenance (O&M), including replacement parts and regular water quality testing for three years, have been provided in-kind by Kinetico and CWC to the Head Starts.

Ultimately, all partners want the filters to be an interim solution, so not only is it important that families know how to prevent exposure from arsenic contamination and have access to interim sources of safe water, it is also important that the communities of Arvin and Lamont keep advocating to achieve a sustainable, long-term drinking water solution.

Other Issues

Unusual and unexpected issues faced during project execution

Limitations of POU filters
From this project, CWC learned one main limitation of existing certified POU filters for arsenic. First, in order for filter systems to be affordable, they typically only have a simple indicator light that notifies the staff when to change the filters after filtering out 500 gallons water, but is unable to notify the staff if the filtered water has arsenic above the federal legal limit. Levels of arsenic fluctuate throughout the year based on the level of the water table and the actual performance of the filter depends on what other constituents are in the water, besides arsenic. As a result, CWC consulted with the California Department of Public Health, which regulates the quality of drinking water in the state, and found out that the Head Starts staff can monitor the effectiveness of the filters by using a simple Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) monitor every week.

Implementation Challenges
POU filters are typically installed inside homes, yet several of the drinking water fountains of the Head Start centers are located outside. The plumber installed the POU systems and mounted them above the fountains, but because of the facilities staff’s concerns with the filters being exposed to the weather and potential vandalism, an unexpected cost came up – the project would need to include the costs for enclosures large enough to house the filters.

Learnings

Knowledge of project and process for sharing

In order to engage a new school partner successfully, you have to understand the administration structure, use education and outreach strategies, and mobilize the community base.

Before the project started, CWC initially thought that the CAPK Head Starts in Arvin and Lamont were an ideal partner for two reasons: 1) They were not providing an alternative source of safe drinking water to their students or staff, and 2) the CAPK Head Start program included 5Head Starts in this area, so the project could bring benefits to not just one center, but many centers. Because these five sites are under the same administrative leadership, this proved to be a huge advantage in building relationships with the administration in order to work together in the decision-making process and project development.

Initially, Yolanda Gonzalez, the Program Director, did not know that the drinking water in South Kern County had high levels of arsenic contamination, so she could not work towards a solution until she understood the problem. Once CWC educated and provided her with important information such as the Arvin and Lamont water quality reports, contamination fact sheets and filter technology information, she quickly became concerned about the issue and wanted to partner to work towards a solution. It was a successful partnership because the Head Start Program’s mission is to continuously look for ways to improve the health and welfare of their students and families, and the Program Director is dedicated to building upon community and parent relationships through education.

In addition, CWC helped mobilize the Committee for a Better Arvin to be partners through education and outreach. Local residents recommended that this interim solutions project be implemented in the Head Start centers because the program is well-known and respected in town, and they understood that small children are very vulnerable to the effects of exposure to drinking water contamination. Without the buy-in of both the daycare centers’ leadership and the community, this project could not have been implemented or be maintained successfully.

Impact

People Impacted: 336

People Getting Safe Drinking Water: 50

A total of 50 staff members at the 5 Head Start Centers will get safe drinking water. Source: Community Action Partnership of Kern (CAPK), 2013.

School Children Getting Water: 286

A total of 286 students at the 5 Head Start Centers will get safe drinking water. Source: Community Action Partnership of Kern (CAPK), 2013.

Funding

Community:
$15,200

Plan/Proposal