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Outlook school water system tainted with high nitrate levels

OUTLOOK - The well that is serving Outlook Elementary School's water needs will be punched deeper during the holiday break, in an effort to reach an aquifer that has lower nitrate levels.

Last Friday, Sunnyside School District officials learned the water being consumed at the Outlook school shows average nitrate levels of 10.2 milligrams per liter. The maximum contaminant level allowed by the Washington State Board of Health is 10.0 milligrams per liter.

The main health risk from high nitrate levels is to infants below the age of 12 months. Infants can become seriously ill if exposed to water with high nitrate levels and, if untreated, could die. Symptoms in infants, which include shortness of breath and blueness of the skin, can develop rapidly, with health deteriorating over a period of days.

Other susceptible individuals include pregnant women and people with certain blood disorders.

Nitrate is a chemical found in most fertilizers, manure and liquid waste discharged from septic tanks. It is an acute contaminant, which means a single exposure can affect a person's health.

Sunnyside School District Business Manager Angela Watts said Outlook's existing well will be punched deeper while students are away from school for holiday break. The plan, she said, is to reach a water level that has acceptable nitrate levels. If that can't be achieved by the time students return to their classrooms in early January, the most likely scenario will be trucking potable water to the school from outside sources.

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