Amsterdam School’s water system received a clean bill of health, a year after the state began an enforcement action over arsenic in the school’s well, officials said this week.
The K-6 school was swept up in federal Environmental Protection Agency rule changes adopted in 2006, according to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. The EPA lowered its arsenic standard from 50 to 10 parts per billion, and the school’s well received 75 violations of the new standard, spurring a June 2009 administrative order to remedy the problem.
In response, the school dug a new well to more than 100 feet to replace the old 65-foot well, said John Fowler, chairman of the Amsterdam School Board. The placement was determined by using “well witching” techniques performed by a local resident.
Witching “is one of those things were whether you believe it or not, he did a good job,” Fowler said. “The new well is fine now.”
While the new well still contains traces of arsenic, it meets all current drinking water standards, Fowler and DEQ officials said. Trustees are in the process of securing water filters through a federal grant.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring metalloid chemical element commonly found in the groundwater in Western states, according to U.S. Geological Survey. Water in parts of the Gallatin Valley is susceptible to arsenic, more than likely due to subterranean layers of volcanic ash. Groundwater seeps through the ash and picks up arsenic.
Public wells from Amsterdam to Three Forks have been caught up in the federal arsenic rule changes in recent years. Manhattan Christian School dug a new well last year and the city of Three Forks has undergone extensive mitigation work.