Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Scottsdale City Council bails out Arizona American Water

After more than 2 hours of presentations and discussions at Tuesday's meeting of the Scottsdale City Council, the Council voted 5 - 2 to enter into a "Treat and Transport" agreement with Arizona American Water (AAW) whereby Scottsdale will treat TCE-contaminated water from wells controlled by AAW and then return it ("transport") back to AAW's system for delivery to its customers.

Previous posts on the matter here and here.

I'll keep this brief because I walked out of the meeting thoroughly ticked off at the selling out of Scottsdale residents by the majority on the Council, and that anger will affect the quality of my writing.

The five members who voted to shoulder AAW's cleanup responsibilities were Mayor Jim Lane, Vice-Mayor Suzanne Klapp, Council member Wayne Ecton, Council member Bob Littlefield, and Council member Marg Nelssen. 

Littlefield and Ecton are up for reelection this year.  Littlefield's support of AAW was no surprise - he's long been a corporate apologist.  Ecton's was a bit of a surprise, and he had a seriously sour look on his face when he cast his vote, but he voted in favor of AAW nonetheless.

The two members who supported condemnation of AAW were Council member Ron McCullagh and Council member Lisa Borowsky. 

McCullagh's support of condemnation was no surprise - he's a customer of AAW and has been the victim of their screw-ups (and AAW's arrogance about those screw-ups) for years.  Borowsky's support of condemnation was weaker and seemed to be rooted in some reservations about the trustworthiness of the AAW figures that she has met with, not in a whole-hearted support for acquiring AAW's Scottsdale operation and folding their customers into the Scottsdale municipal system.

In the interests of keeping this brief, and because the AZ Republic will probably cover the matter in more depth later today, here are some observations from the meeting:

- It was definitely a "strange bedfellows" sort of evening - Lane and Littlefield were on the same side of the issue as the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce.  Definitely an unusual event.

- More "strange bedfellows" - former (2008) rivals for the R nod for CD5, Laura Knaperek and Susan Bitter Smith, were there to lobby for AAW.  I'm not sure that it means much, but they stayed well away from each other during the meeting.

- They weren't even together during the group hug/backslapping session held outside City Hall by AAW's lobbyists after the hearing.

- Two member of the governing board of the Central Arizona Project were in the Kiva to support AAW, though neither was ID'ed as such.  Both Tim Bray, who spoke, and Bitter Smith are current members of the Board.  Bray is running for reelection; Bitter Smith is not.

- Before the meeting hypocrisy alert (unrelated to the AAW matter) - at the beginning of the meeting, Jim Lane proudly announced that the City had purchased more land for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, partially with money from the Growing Smarter/Land Conservation Fund.

A fund that Republicans, including Lane, want to dismantle in favor of corporate tax cuts (Proposition 301).

All in all, it was a very frustrating evening, both for me and for most of the residents in the Kiva.  The vast majority of those who weren't there on AAW's dime strongly supported condemnation.

I left the building with one thought - if the issue at hand was a tattoo parlor in north Scottsdale increasing profits by cutting corners on needles, and exposing residents of north Scottsdale to hepatitis, HIV, or something else, the Council would have fallen all over itself to shut down the operation and kick it out of Scottsdale.  However, the people exposed to poison as a result of AAW's shoddy maintenance practices (and that was part of the final report of the investigation looking into the incidents that precipitated Tuesday's agenda item) were all in south Scottsdale.

People noticed that, and many of the folks walking out of the Kiva after the meeting left muttering that they would be supporting whoever runs for Mayor against Lane in 2012.

While Tuesday's meeting was a serious setback for supporters of good governance, from any partisan affiliation (I'm a D, yet both McCullagh and Borowsky are active Rs), something tells me this isn't over.  Tuesday's vote was for approval of guidance to City staff, not on approval of a specific contract.



semperfi86 said...

One fact you have incorrect is that the TCE contaminated water(caused by Motorola, not AAW)will not be transported. This will be stripped of TCE's and injected right back into the ground where it came from to try and stop the, Motorola caused, plume from migrating. The water that will be transported is AAW's CAP allowance that is not currently being used. This is a win, win for protecting our long term water supplies. There are other legit beefs with this. But the TCE laced water will not be going to Scottsdale plant or any of its residents.

cpmaz said...

I thought I had clarified that, but I've written about this issue enough that some of it may be blending together in my head.

AAW is *not* one of the companies that caused the original contamination (and Motorola was just one of three responsible companies). In fact, AAW was contracted to clean up the contaminated groundwater.

The problem behind the agenda item occurred when AAW failed to clean some contaminated water before sending it to their customers for drinking, cooking, bathing, etc.

The water that will be forwarded into AAW's service area won't have TCE in it. Instead of AAW being responsible for cleaning it, City of Scottsdale will end up doing it.

semperfi86 said...

No TCE contaminated water will be going to the Scottsdale plant. In fact, none of the wells AAW owns or operates will be a part of this agreement to transport water. Only the CAP allocation from the canal will be part of this Treat and Transport. This "potential" agreement will not involve Scottsdale treated any TCE's whatsoever.

David said...

The 'treat & transport' is the best solution for Scottsdale. If the City goes after condemnation, it will spend hundreds of thousands on legal fees (as well AAW) only to end up agreeing to an overpriced system in the $50 to $100 million range. Water infrastructure ain't cheap and especially the land its on. So, Scottsdale citizens walk away with huge bill to pay for the aquisition of some 2500 customers so that people like Ron McCullough & Richard Alt can finally feel better about themselves?

As semperfi states no TCE water will be going to Scottsdale residents which is the whole reason for McCullough's beef about draining the acquifer. The original TCE tainted well USED to be treated and sent into the system as a way to SAVE the water but now that water is going to the CAP canal while AAW pumps its own well to make for the lost water. So, the acquifer is being double dipped. This allows AAW to utilized its CAP allottment (that previously had been flowing by unused) and stop pumping from its own wells. So, 3 million gallons a day stays in the aquifer AND the City gets paid to treat the water.