One of the items on Tuesday's agenda for the Scottsdale City Council has to do with "Arizona American Water Company Delivery Service Options." (warning: large .pdf. It make take a while to download, even with a high speed connection)
Arizona American Water provides water service to a small portion of Scottsdale, but one that is the source of problems out of all proportion to its size.
The affected area is part of the North Indian Bend Wash Superfund Site. It covers a section of south Scottsdale where industrial concerns disposed of waste in a way that contaminated the groundwater in the area.
Arizona American Water (AAW) operates one of the facilities built to treat (clean) the contaminated water, the Miller Road Treatment Facility (MRTF).
AAW would treat contaminated water and then mix it with the drinking water that they sell to portions of Scottsdale and Paradise Valley.
in 2007 and 2008, there were incidents at the MRTF that resulted in a significant quantity of un- and undertreated being pumped to residential customers in AAW's service area. (Info on the incidents here, here, here, and here.)
After the second incident, there was a lot of pressure on the Scottsdale City Council to look at acquiring the Scottsdale part of AAW's service area and to fold the customers into the City's water delivery system.
AAW and its parent company, American Waterworks (corporate headquarters in New Jersey), immediately objected and loudly proclaimed that the affected area wasn't for sale.
The Council at the time directed City sfaff to study the matter and to get back to them about it.
That's happening Tuesday, when City staff will present its report, evaluation, and recommendation that the Council choose one of two possible options.
1. Direct staff to bring forward a resolution authorizing a Treat and Transport Agreement with Arizona American Water Company “the Company” whereby the City will receive and treat the Company’s Central Arizona Project raw water allotment and deliver the finished water to the Company’s system at a metered Point of Delivery; OR
2. Direct staff to bring forward a resolution whereby the Council will authorize a condemnation proceeding to acquire all or a portion of Arizona American Water Company assets located within the Paradise Valley Water District and make appropriate findings of public use and necessity.
In the interim, an astroturf group (aka - a fake grassroots group) called the ORANGE Coalition (an acronym for "Organized Residents Against Needless Government Encroachment) was established, to fight all government uses of eminent domain and similar acquisitions of property. The group was formed as a non-profit corporation, effectively shielding its financing from public scrutiny, with its "domestic address" listed with the AZ Corporation Commission as "1025 LAUREL OAK RD., VOORHEES, NJ 08043" (since updated to a mail drop in Scottsdale).
That address is significant because it is the address of American Waterworks' corporate headquarters. And while the group's address has since been updated, one of the directors of the group, Daniel Kelleher, still lists his address as that of the corporate HQ. Kelleher is a "retired" executive of American Waterworks who has been retained by the company to fight efforts by local governments to acquire any of its "problem" operations in order to protect the affected residents/customers.
More background on the ORANGE Coalition here and here.
The ORANGE Coalition has put out a few email blasts, exhorting members of the community to come to the defense of AAW and protect it from condemnation proceedings, all in the name of private property rights.
None of their email messages mention AAW's penchant for pumping poison into its customers' homes.
In addition to the efforts of AAW/ORANGE to fill the City Hall Kiva with supporters on Tuesday night, there has been a media push - the Arizona Republic published an unsigned editorial criticizing the "condemnation" option and praise the "treat and transport" option, while KTVK (Channel 3) will be running a report on a "government takeover" of private property in Scottsdale a day or so before the Council meeting (based on a promo during Friday's late newscast). A more neutral (at least, a less obviously slanted) AZRep article on the matter is here.
Tuesday should be interesting in an "election year gymnastics" sort of way - Council members Wayne Ecton and Bob Littlefield are up for reelection in just a few weeks, and while they probably don't want to tick off their business community supporters by arguing and voting for condemnation, they also don't want to be seen as throwing thousands of Scottsdale residents under the corporate bus in the name of ever-greater profits.
Council member Ron McCullagh was/is one of AAW's customers and was the moving force behind consideration, and I expect that he will support the condemnation option.
Mayor Jim Lane will oppose condemnation, and Council member Lisa Borowsky will follow his lead, as will Council member Marg Nelssen.
That leaves Council member Suzanne Klapp, and I don't have a read on her on this matter.
Prediction time: A 4-3 or 5-2 vote in favor of the "treat and transport" option - it's got that mix of being seen as "doing something" while "not being too rash."
The perfect two-step for an election year.