Unpermitted discharge of treated water into Queen Creek Wash has stopped, ADEQ says

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issued a water quality advisory on Jan. 11 for the unpermitted discharge of recycled water from Johnson Utilities’ Pecan Water Reclamation Plant into Queen Creek Wash in the San Tan Valley area. EPCOR notified ADEQ that the discharge has stopped and this advisory is no longer in effect, ADEQ said.

EPCOR estimates a total release of 15.36 million gallons between Jan. 9 and 17. There was no impact to Johnson Utilities’ drinking water systems and there was not a release of untreated sewage into the environment, ADEQ said in a release.

“This advisory was limited to the unpermitted discharge of recycled water into Queen Creek (Wash). EPCOR said additional releases are possible if there is heavy and/or extended wet weather in the area,” according to the release.

“The unpermitted discharge is due to an exceedance of recharge capacity of the Pecan Water Reclamation Plant. The plant is at 38539 N. Gantzel Road in San Tan Valley. To manage future flows, EPCOR continues working to increase recycled water capacity for local irrigation districts and farmers.”

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

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 cautioning against contact with standing water and/or to not drink, according to the release.

“If you have contact with standing water, wash hands thoroughly. ADEQ confirmed samples taken in January 2019 inside the plant meet water quality standards for A+ effluent,” according to the release.

A permitted discharge of this kind would be required to do additional monitoring for surface water quality standards as determined by an Arizona Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. ADEQ gathered water samples to test for surface water quality standards when an inspector observed the ongoing release on Friday, Jan. 11, according to the release.

Preliminary results of the samples collected at the pipe discharging water into Queen Creek Wash 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 the coming weeks, ADEQ said in the release.

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 release states.

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