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District finds new water supply for Outlook school

OUTLOOK - "The good news is that they have found good water," Sunnyside School Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole said of successful drilling on a new well to serve Outlook Elementary School.

The school district has been working for nearly two weeks to address a water test that showed high nitrate levels in the school's water supply.

District officials originally thought the existing well could be drilled deeper, but instead opted to drill a new well.

The original water well was at a depth of 129 feet, said Cole, and the new well drilled earlier this week runs nearly twice as deep, to 245 feet.

Initial testing done yesterday afternoon shows water from the new well with a nitrate level of 4.4 milligrams per liter, well below the rate of 10.2 from the old well.

The maximum contaminant level allowed by the Washington State Board of Health is 10.0 milligrams per liter.

The school doesn't have the only well in the Outlook area. Health officials have recommended that all Outlook residents monitor their own sources of water for nitrate levels.

With well drilling complete and a successful test in hand, Cole said the key now is to get the well operational by next Monday, Jan. 7, when students return to classes. If the well is not up and running by then, Cole said the district is ready with a back-up plan to furnish bottled water to students and staff in the interim.

The estimated $20,000 cost to replace the well will be covered by the school district's insurance provider, Cole said.

This marks the second winter break in a row that problems at Outlook Elementary School have sent district officials scampering for answers.

In December 2006, the Outlook school suffered an accidental fire that threatened to interrupt classes. Last month the school held a dedication ceremony to celebrate the finishing touches on repairs from the fire.

"We recovered quickly from the fire and I think people are going to be happy that this is resolved," Cole said of the back-to-back fire and water issues at the school.

Ironically, the 129-foot deep well that formerly provided drinking water may be used to supplement a well the school uses to fight fires. Last December's blaze was the second fire in the school's history.

"We're going to try and figure out how to use it for fire suppression," he said of the old well. "Hopefully, we won't have a fire."

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