Arp ISD receives donated water bottles from Ozarka

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The Arp Independent School District has received a generous donation from the Ozarka Nestle Waters plant in Hawkins. Students and staff returning to school Thursday, Aug. 17, will be provided with free water bottles.

The City of Arp released a notice Wednesday, Aug. 2, stating the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality informed the city “that the drinking water being supplied to customers had exceeded the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for asbestos.” The MCL for asbestos has been set at 7 MFL, but an analysis of the drinking water in Arp revealed 13 MFL for ASB-01, 10 MFL for ASB-02, 12 MFL for ASB-03, 14 MFL for ASB-04, and 9 MFL for ASB-05.

Despite the findings, the City of Arp has said there are no emergency or immediate health risks to consumers. The city is working to replace the water lines containing asbestos and residents do not need to use an alternate water supply. If there are any health concerns, they should be discussed with a doctor.

Dwight G. Thomas, superintendent at Arp ISD, still has some concerns. He said the city has informed the school district that the health risk only exists through long-term exposure and the water is safe to drink. However, whether it’s one year or ten years, Thomas said a health risk is a health risk and he doesn’t want students or faculty drinking the city water.

Arp Junior High Principal Bryan Hurst spoke with a relative that works at Ozarka in Hawkins about the issue facing the school district. The relative told him that Ozarka works with public entities from time to time.

Thomas contacted the plant the next day and went out with his personal trailer to pick up the water bottles. The trailer was loaded with more than 7,000 bottles. “I’m trying to be as proactive as I can to provide safe water for our students,” Thomas said.

However, with approximately 1,000 students and staff members, the bottles won’t last long. The district is taking other steps to ensure there is plenty of safe drinking water. External filters have been placed in the cafeteria and the school is looking into purchasing water coolers. Ozarka has even offered help in the future. While there are no definite plans in place, Thomas said Ozarka fully intends to assist where possible.

“We want them to be safe. We don’t want our students to worry about whether the water is safe or not safe… they’ve got enough on their minds,” Thomas said.

Arp ISD has sent letters to parents living outside the city informing them of the water situation. The district has asked parents to help by sending water bottles with their students if they are able.

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