Humboldt Water System owner Tim Kyllo posted a notice to customers Monday about arsenic levels that exceed the Maximum Contaminant Level after he received test results on Aug. 24.
Samples from an Aug. 15 test showed arsenic levels of 18.4 parts per billion, nearly double the MCL of 10 ppb.
"Although this is not an emergency, as our customers, you have a right to know what happened, what you should do, and what we did (are doing) to correct this situation," the notice states.
Customers are not at immediate risk, the notice continued, and do not need to drink water from an alternative source such as bottled water. However, those with specific health concerns should consult their doctor, it said.
"We are currently checking into treatment alternatives and financing possibilities," Kyllo said in an email to the Tribune Monday morning.
According to a 1999 study by the National Academy of Sciences, high levels of arsenic could cause bladder, lung and skin cancer, and may cause kidney and liver cancer. The study also found that arsenic harms the central and peripheral nervous systems, as well as heart and blood vessels, and causes serious skin problems. It also may cause birth defects and reproductive problems.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical element found in minerals throughout the Western United States and particularly in areas in which mines operated. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website reports that arsenic is odorless and tasteless, and "enters drinking water supplies from natural deposits in the earth or from agricultural and industrial practices." EPA lists possible non-cancer effects of arsenic to include thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting; diarrhea; numbness in hands and feet; partial paralysis; and blindness.
Since January 2006, water systems must comply with EPA's 10 ppb standard.
At the Dewey-Humboldt Town Library, Librarian Jeff Franklin said the library is on the Humboldt Water System. When the town and Yavapai County first established the library, there was discussion about installing a drinking fountain or using bottled water. The bottled water won out, but it wasn't because of any concern about water quality, he said.
Town Hall receptionist Cathy Jackson said almost everyone drinks bottled water in the town offices - everyone but her.
"Why should I? I've been drinking this water most of my life. Why change now?" she asked. Jackson's mother was born and raised in Humboldt and her father was raised in Crown King, but lived most of his life in Humboldt. She's not concerned about health risks, she said.
The Town Hall has a filtration system on its water tap, said D-H Town Clerk Judy Morgan.
Humboldt Elementary School also is on HWS water. Mariela Bean, public relations director for the Humboldt Unified School District, said the district received Kyllo's notice Tuesday morning, and HUSD Maintenance Director Ben Peters is checking into water filtering systems for the school. In the meantime, Bean said the district has several pallets of water it will deliver to the school Wednesday morning, and Crystal Water is sending 6-10 water dispensers. Students also will have bottles of water available during the day.
"We are taking responsibility for the safety of our kids. We are also notifying the parents tonight of the water situation," Bean said late Tuesday afternoon. "We will find a permanent solution to this."
Kyllo said HWS continues to sample its water on a quarterly basis and he is investigating treatment options.
For more information, contact Humboldt Water System at 928-632-9730.