Unpermitted discharge of treated water into Queen Creek reported in San Tan Valley, ADEQ says

[Update: On Jan. 15, ADEQ said in a release, “There is no impact to Johnson Utilities’ drinking water systems and there has not been a release of untreated sewage into the environment.” Also, “EPCOR notified ADEQ of a spill of treated recycled water on Jan. 6 and an impending controlled release on Jan. 7. ADEQ sent an inspector to the facility on Friday, Jan. 11, to better assess the situation before the upcoming weekend. Upon arrival at the facility, an inspector observed an ongoing release into Queen Creek and gathered water samples for testing. On Jan. 15, EPCOR confirmed the release would continue intermittently with wet weather in the area. EPCOR estimates a total release of 11.75 million gallons as of the afternoon of Jan. 15. Preliminary results of the samples collected at the pipe discharging water into Queen Creek show it is meeting E. coli surface water quality standards for both full and partial body contact. Further results regarding nitrogen and other contaminants will be available within a week. E. coli is naturally occurring and most strains are not harmful to humans. Surface water quality standards allow a certain level of E. coli that would be expected from natural sources.”]

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality on Jan. 11 issued a Water Quality Advisory for the unpermitted discharge of recycled water into Queen Creek in the San Tan Valley area.

“Please avoid contact with the water in this area. ADEQ is making this recommendation because a discharge of recycled water into Queen Creek occurred from the Pecan Water Reclamation Plant,” according to a release.

The water reclamation plant is at 38539 N. Gantzel Road in San Tan Valley, ADEQ said.

It is owned by Johnson Utilities, according to documents at the Environmental Protection Agency website.

The unpermitted discharge is due to high volume that exceeded the capacity of the Pecan Water Reclamation Plant to treat and process wastewater. The high volume may be due to increased residential use from homes occupied normally only during the cooler months and decreased evaporation due to recent cool, wet weather, according to the release from ADEQ.

EPCOR was appointed by the Arizona Corporation Commission as the interim manager for Johnson Utilities in August.

“EPCOR is working to manage flows. This discharge may prevent an accidental release of untreated wastewater elsewhere in the system. ADEQ is assessing the discharge,” according to the release.

Recycled water is treated but is not required to meet surface-water quality standards associated with full or partial body contact and this area of Queen Creek has been previously exposed to sewer overflows, according to the release.

“People and animals exposed to water in this environment are at risk of infection from microorganisms associated with human waste,” it states.

Recycled water is typically used for non-potable applications, including for irrigation of golf courses and common areas within a community or in ponds at the facility to recharge the aquifer. The use of recycled water in a community is indicated by purple pipes and signage, according to the release.

Recommended actions by ADEQ include:

  • Avoid contact with the water in this area.
  • Do not allow people or pets to drink this water, wade through it or use it for washing. In the event of contact, thoroughly wash with soap and clean water as soon as possible.
  • Contact a medical professional if you have any questions or show symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea.

The advisory is to remain in effect until the discharge is stopped. ADEQ will lift the advisory by issuing an additional notice and contacting local officials, according to the release.

Go to azdeq.gov.

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