Thursday, January 17, 2008

Update on the contaminated water in Scottsdale and P.V.

Edit to update the update:

As stated toward the end of Ms. Rosen's email, Congressman Mitchell *was* briefed by the EPA on this matter and learned the following -

- TCE levels were four times the maximum contaminant level (approximately 20 parts per billion; 5 ppb is the maximum contaminant level), and

- Arizona American Water Co. customers in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley may have been exposed to those levels for up to 16 hours.

After learning these facts, Mitchell said “I have urged the EPA to conduct a full investigation. This is the second TCE incident at the same facility in three months. That’s not normal, and that’s not acceptable.”

Stayed tuned for more updates...

End edit...

Vicki Rosen, the EPA's Community Involvement Coordinator for the North Indian Bend Wash Superfund site just sent out this email to the NIBW Community Involvement Group (CIG). It has some of the details on what happened at the treatment facility in Scottsdale.

The email -
Hello CIG members,

You may have already read about this week's failure at the MRTF in the newspapers, but this note is to let you know what EPA knows so far about what happened.

Yesterday (Wed. Jan. 16), Jamey received a call from Dennis Shirley, consultant to the Participating Companies (PCs), advising that there had been another release. Jamey immediately informed all the appropriate people at EPA, but it was late in the day so that's why this message wasn't sent sooner.

This is what we got from Dennis:

The release was discovered yesterday by Arizona American Water at 6:30 am. A blower on Tower 3 (which treats water from well PCX-1) had shut off. That shutoff could have happened as early as the day before (Tues, Jan. 15) at 2:30 pm. There may have been 16 hours when untreated water entered the system.

Athough controls were supposed to be in place that would shut down the system in such an event, this did not happen. Untreated water containing TCE was discharged into the drinking water system. Sampling has found that levels of TCE at approximately 20 parts per billion (ppb) were distributed into the system. Sampling continues at the point of entry and throughout the system.

The MRTF was immediately shut down as soon as the failure was discovered. It is currently not operating.

AZ American Water and the PCs went into response mode and notified all customers who would have gotten that water; this was done through a reverse-911 system of phone calls to each household telling people to not drink the water. People were also told that free bottled water would be available at a particular location.

Top managers at AZ American Water have supposedly already briefed Congressman Harry Mitchell directly.

This is what we know so far. EPA is consulting with a number of parties to assess the situation and what should be done. In the meantime, almost all of our NIBW team is out of the office until at least next Tues (Jan. 22). Jamey is spending time with his brand new baby boy (their first), so it may be a while before you hear directly from him. I'm actually out of the office today having just had minor surgery, and I will not be in tomorrow either. If I get any emails from any of you, you may not get a response until next week. Monday is a federal holiday.

I will be back in touch with everyone as we learn more. We will also start to look at when we can get together in person to discuss these important issues.


Note: I've got a call out to AZ American Water, but since my workweek starts tomorrow, I may not be able to follow up until Monday (or Tuesday because of the holiday.) Check the news, the City of Scottsdale's website, the Town of Paradise Valley's website, or AZ American Water's website for updates.


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