A San Tan Valley school is shutting off its drinking fountains and not using tap water for cooking, after tests at a local water plant revealed nitrate levels in the water that exceeded the maximum allowable amount.

Residents of the Copper Basin subdivision were notified Wednesday by Johnson Utilities that water-sample tests collected on April 11 and April 24 from the Bella Vista Water Plant showed the nitrate levels at 12 mg/L and 12.2 mg/L, respectively. The standard is a maximum of 10 mg/L, the notification said.

Copper Basin K-8 school Principal Scott Johnson, on the school’s Facebook page, posted a copy of the notification along with a message advising parents that the school would be shutting off drinking fountains and would not use tap water to cook until the nitrate levels were reduced to acceptable levels.

“We have supplied bottles of water for students who need it today and will continue to do so until the water normalizes,” he said in Wednesday’s post.

Johnson also asked for donations of bottled water to supply the school through this week.

The Copper Basin area is located southeast of Queen Creek. The school is part of the Florence Unified School District.


The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality takes an ‘informal notice’ approach with small companies, but clean-water advocates say this does little to fix drinking-water violations.

Excessive nitrate levels in water can pose serious or potentially fatal health problems for infants 6 months old or younger, the advisory said. The advisory said parents should not give such water to children that young or mix it into their food, formulas or drinks.

The advisory noted that boiling the water does not eliminate the nitrates and could make them more concentrated. Filtering or chilling the water also does not help. People older than 6 months can consume the water, but women who are pregnant or people with other health concerns are advised to consult a doctor.

Johnson Utilities, in its advisory, said it is working with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality on the matter. The well that caused the problem has been taken off line and the area will be serviced from other portions of the utility’s water supply.

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