Senate Approves Water Money for Fallon

Fallon Cancer Cluster
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Students at Churchill County schools will receive bottle water free of arsenic under a measure approved by the U.S. Senate.

The provision sponsored by Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign provides $100,000 and is part of an energy bill that appropriates about $8 million for Nevada projects.

The bill now heads to a conference committee to reconcile differences in a version passed by the House of Representatives.

Reid and Ensign said the money will be allocated to a not-for-profit organization formed by the families of children diagnosed with leukemia in Fallon.

Sixteen children with ties to Fallon have been diagnosed with the disease since 1997. Three have died.

Studies have shown the arsenic content in Fallon's water is 10 times that allowed by federal safe drinking water standards.

Experts have said there's no evidence arsenic causes leukemia.

"The arsenic war in Fallon has gone on for many years," Patty Wadsworth of Fallon, a mother who has lobbied for bottled water, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

"The battle has taught us that it is easier to poison children than it is to protect them," she said.

Fallon city officials and some school board members have said because the city's new water-treatment plant will be operating by May, there's no reason to spend money on school water now. They said continued exposure to the toxin wouldn't affect children's health.

But arsenic experts said the 100 parts per billion levels in Fallon's school water is no margin of safety, especially for children, who are more vulnerable than adults to toxins.

In May, the Churchill County School Board voted to welcome proposals for water donations. Although those who fought for the water said they don't think the arsenic is related to leukemia, they said the cancer cluster raised awareness of environmental dangers.