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Huntley Project Schools water

From left, Huntley Project Schools students Walt Lindeen, Bobby Thom, William Manning and David Armour fill water bottles at the elementary school on the first day of school Wednesday, August 21. High levels of nitrates and surface contaminants have made the area's groundwater not safe for human consumption.

About 750 students headed back to school at Huntley Project Schools on Wednesday with one more item on their list: water bottles.

A day after the Montana Department of Environmental Quality issued an advisory for residents of Worden and Ballantine to stop drinking tap water, bottled water dispensers were set up next to water fountains in the school.

"On the first day of school we usually worry about backpacks, pictures and parents crying," said elementary secretary Karen Simpson. "This year it's water."

According to superintendent Mark Wandle, American Water Technologies delivered 48 5-gallon bottles of water Tuesday, with an additional delivery planned every three to four days. The school was also planning to provide water bottles for students without them. 

Huntley Project Schools water

Dawn Rightmier prepares vegetables in the kitchen at the school.

In the school's kitchen, kitchen director Ginger Buchanan showed off the extra microbial test being used on the bottled water used to wash fresh fruits and vegetables.

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Huntley Project Schools water

Kitchen director Ginger Buchanan shows a microbial test being used on all the water to wash fruits and vegetables in the kitchen at the school.

The kitchen staff will have to use bottled water for all food preparation, including water for the pasta Thursday, and any soup bases.

Huntley Project Schools water

Vegetables soak in a disinfectant and bottled water solution before being prepared in the kitchen at Huntley Project Schools on the first day of school Wednesday, August 21.

The Worden Ballantine Yellowstone Water District is holding a community meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday in the community room at Huntley Project High School to discuss the tap water issue.

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