By Elizabeth Zach, RCAC staff writer

Allensworth in California’s San Joaquin Valley, now Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, was founded in 1908 by Colonel Allen Allensworth, a former slave and American Civil War Union officer. At the time, artesian wells produced clear water and crops flourished; Allensworth dreamed of creating a black utopia.

Despite its state park recognition and a history of local volunteers working to preserve the historic site, the community’s water system, relying on two blended wells, tests high for arsenic, which can damage kidneys. The current chlorination system is inadequate for arsenic removal and most solutions are too expensive for the small rural community.

“That’s the ongoing problem,” Dezaraye Bagalayos, a program coordinator for the Tulare Basin Wildlife Partners told The Guardian. “It’s just not possible for these rural communities to scale up enough to pay for the kind of water system they need.”

Allensworth’s water problem is not unlike that of other rural communities around California, as well as the rural West, whereby limited or unmaintained water systems makes them meeting state and federal standards a challenge.

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