Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Brief progress report on last month's EPA meeting

Edit on 1/17/2008 to add: For those readers looking for info on the January 2008 incident affecting drinking water in parts of Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, my post on that is here. That post includes links to news reports, the City of Scottsdale's press release on the subject (with a link to a map of the affected area, and a link to Arizona American Water's press release.

End edit...

At a meeting of the Community Involvement Group of the North Indian Bend Wash Superfund site (NIBW) last month, it was announced that one of the groundwater treatment facilities, the Miller Road Treatment Facility (MRTF) had experienced a period of "incomplete remediation" and had pumped water with unacceptably high levels of TCE into Scottsdale's drinking water supply.

Coverage of that meeting and announcement here and here.

Earlier today, I called Jamey Watt, the EPA's Remiedial Project Manager for the NIBW, to follow up.

The results of the phone call -

The investigation into the incident is ongoing; while the participating companies (PCs) have some ideas as to the case of the problem, those ideas have not been verified. The EPA has asked the PCs to conduct a complete engineering assessment of the facility and treatment tower.

There are three treatment facilities in the area beside the one in question - the Central Groundwater Treatment Facility (CGTF), operated by the City of Scottsdale, and the Area 7 and Area 12 facilities, operated by the PCs directly as those two facilities treat source contamination and do not produce drinking water.

Note: Area 7's outflow is reinjected into the ground; Area 12's is discharged to irrigation.

All of the sites regularly sample the results of their cleanup efforts, though Areas 7 and 12 are tested less frequently because they are not involved with drinking water.

Most of the samples are tested at the same lab, Transwest Geochem, though the City of Scottsdale does some of its testing in-house. While equipment problems at the lab led to a delay in testing an MRTF sample in August, leading to a delay in public notification of bad test results (the source of much of the anger at November's meeting), no problems have been reported with the samples from the other facilities, either with testing timeliness or the results themselves.

The test results are not readily available to Scottsdale residents in a timely manner; I suggested creating a website or email listserv to regularly update folks, with all results and not just abnormal ones.

A press release from Congressman Harry Mitchell's office advised that the EPA is requiring the PCs to change the operating procedures of the treatment facilities.

When asked for details on those changes, Watt advised that the EPA was still working on a response to the incident; short-term measures include asking for a complete engineering evaluation (mentioned above) and shutting down the treatment tower involved in the incident ("tower 3") and requiring more frequent sampling.

He closed by saying that the next Community Involvement Group will probably be sooner than the usual one year interval, but he's not sure when that will be because the situation is still being assessed.

Any questions should be directed to Vicki Rosen, Community Involvement Coordinator (rosen.vicki[at] or Jamey Watt, Remedial Project Manager (watt.jamey[at] Both can be reached at 1-800-231-3075.

Be gentle with them if you call though - right now, and probably through the holidays, they are absolutely swamped with the fallout from this. :)

Have a good night!

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