Newsroom: Press Release Archive: September 2003
  • Sept. 30, 2003: ADEQ Begins Year-Round Air Quality Forecasting
  • Sept. 30, 2003: ADEQ Says Summer Air Quality Better Than Expected
  • Sept. 26, 2003: ADEQ Hosts "Smoke School" in Tempe
  • Sept. 26, 2003: Learn About Protecting the State's Natural Resources with ADEQ at the Verde Valley River Days Festival
  • Sept. 24, 2003: Phoenix Metropolitan Area Qualifies as "Attainment Area" for Carbon Monoxide
  • Sept. 23, 2003: ADEQ Director Owens, Attorney General Goddard Announce Penalty for Hazardous Waste Violations
  • Sept. 23, 2003: 1,000 Local Arizona Students to Participate in Nationwide "Make a Splash" Water Quality Festival
  • Sept. 22, 2003: ADEQ Director Owens, Attorney General Goddard Announce Settlements for Estes Landfill Contamination
  • Sept. 19, 2003: ADEQ Hosts "Smoke School" in Tucson
  • Sept. 16, 2003: ADEQ Hosts "Smoke School" in Show Low
  • Sept. 16, 2003: ADEQ Director Steve Owens Praises $3.97 Million NADBank Grant for Somerton
  • Sept. 11, 2003: ADEQ Director Steve Owens Issues Notice of Violation to Kinder-Morgan Gasoline Spill
  • Sept. 5, 2003: EPA Approves Arizona's Plan to Eliminate MTBE From Summertime Cleaner Burning Gasoline
  • Sept. 5, 2003: ADEQ Partners With GateWay Community College to Train Volunteers of a Water Quality Monitoring Program
  • Sept. 3, 2003: EPA Signals a Return to Cleaner Burning Gasoline in Maricopa County
  • Sept. 2, 2003: Sampling Confirms No PCE, TCE Contamination in Gilbert Drinking Water Aquifer

ADEQ Begins Year-Round Air Quality Forecasting

PHOENIX (Sept. 30, 2003) -- As part of an effort to provide more comprehensive information about air quality in the Phoenix metropolitan area, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality today began providing year-round air quality forecasts via its Web site and telephone information line.

The new daily forecast will include information about ground-level ozone pollution and carbon monoxide as well as coarse and fine particulate matter or dust, measured as PM10 and PM 2.5.

"In the past, we have tended to look at pollutants seasonally," said ADEQ Director Steve Owens. "The new forecasts will provide a more accurate picture of year-round air quality here in Maricopa County."

The forecasts are available on our Web site or by telephoning (602) 771-2367.

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ADEQ Says Summer Air Quality Better Than Expected

PHOENIX (Sept. 30, 2003) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens said that despite record high temperatures and a gasoline pipeline break that caused a late-summer fuel shortage, the Phoenix metropolitan area reported better-than-expected air quality during the summer ozone season, which ended today.

Owens said the department had expected to exceed federal standards for ozone pollution 19 times based on an analysis of data collected over the past several years, but this year's data revealed only 14 "exceedances."

Owens attributed the lower number to increased public awareness and the public's willingness to telecommute and use alternate modes of transportation to reduce their driving during the heat of the day.

"This year's summer ozone campaign has been very successful," Owens said. "We not only beat air quality expectations, but we also provided a great deal more information to the public about the health hazards associated with exposure to ground-level ozone pollution."

Owens said the primary goal of this year's campaign was to provide the public, particularly children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems, with more information about the harmful effects of ozone during the transition to the new standard. ADEQ also wanted to avoid the confusion of trying to forecast for both one-hour and eight-hour standards and to prevent any violations of the current one-hour standard, Owens said.

Starting this year, ADEQ based its forecasts on the new federal eight-hour ozone standard, which measures the highest average concentration over any eight-hour period each day. In previous years, the department issued forecasts based on the current one-hour standard, which measures the highest ozone concentration recorded in any one-hour period each day.

While the new eight-hour standard does not take effect until next year, ADEQ and its Clean Air Campaign partners at Valley Metro and the Maricopa County Department of Environmental Services decided to move ahead with the transition this year as part of an effort to educate the public and prepare them for the challenge that lies ahead in meeting the new, tougher standard.

The more stringent eight-hour standard provides a more realistic measure of the exposure to harmful health effects of ground-level ozone pollution. The standard is based on medical studies indicating that prolonged exposure to low-level ozone concentrations is as harmful to human health as exposure to higher levels for shorter durations.

In preparation for the move to the new standard, ADEQ and its partners revamped their notification process, adopting a combination of "ozone health watches" for those in sensitive groups and "ozone health warnings" for the general population. The department also issued weekly "ozone outlook" forecasts to help Valley residents to plan their weekly commutes.

"The feedback on our weekly ozone outlook forecasts has been very positive," Owens said. "More importantly, the strategy appears to have helped lower the number of poor air quality days."

Owens noted that maintaining healthy air quality this summer was particularly challenging because of the above average temperatures throughout July and much of August and a shortage of gas in mid-August due to the Kinder-Morgan pipeline break that caused many Valley residents to drive additional miles and idle in long lines to get gasoline.

However, officials say that increased car-pooling and bus ridership during the height of the gasoline shortage may have worked in their favor."

Employers have also played a huge role in maintaining our air quality over the summer by getting their employees to use alternative modes this summer, especially on Ozone Health Warning days," said Susan Tierney, marketing coordinator for Valley Metro's Rideshare Program. "More than 550 employers signed up as part of a program to encourage their employees to ride the bus, carpool, or work from home on days when ozone levels were high."

Tierney said Valley Metro saw a dramatic increase in the number of people visiting ShareTheRide.com to receive carpool/vanpool match list information, probably a result of the gasoline shortage. In July, the site produced 651 match lists, but in August the number jumped to 1,361.

Bus ridership also increased nearly 12 percent, due to an increase in services over the past year. System-wide, more than 50 million passengers rode Valley Metro buses last year.

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ADEQ Hosts "Smoke School" in Tempe

PHOENIX (Sept. 26, 2003) -- The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality will be sponsoring a free "smoke school" Oct. 1 and 2 in Tempe, Arizona.

The training will be held at the PERA Club, 1 E. Continental Drive, beginning at 8 a.m. The Oct. 1 session will consist of both classroom and field testing; the Oct. 2 session will be field testing only.

Smoke school is a nickname for formal certification in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's method for determining the opacity of smoke and dust emissions. During the testing session, participants evaluate several sets of black and white smoke readings.

ADEQ conducts smoke school training twice a year (spring and fall) at locations around the state. Training sessions this fall are also scheduled in Kingman.

To register for a training session, please contact Fred Ellis, at (602) 771-4851, toll free at (800) 234-5677.

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Learn About Protecting the State's Natural Resources with ADEQ at the Verde Valley River Days Festival

PHOENIX (Sept. 26, 2003) -- Representatives from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality will promote understanding and appreciation of the Verde River at the 15th Annual Verde River Days Festival in Cottonwood on Saturday, Sept. 27.

The event, which takes place at the Dead Horse Ranch State Park from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., will feature interactive displays and exhibits by ADEQ designed to teach adults and children about the department's mission to improve the quality of Arizona's air, land and water resources.

In addition to learning about watersheds and groundwater flow through ADEQ's hands-on exhibit, visitors will learn about non-point source pollution, air quality, underground storage tanks, proper waste disposal and recycling.

The outdoor event also offers family-oriented activities such as geological hikes, fly-casting, canoe rides, hang gliding, food booths and live entertainment.

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Phoenix Metropolitan Area Qualifies as "Attainment Area" for Carbon Monoxide

PHOENIX (Sept. 24, 2003) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens said today that the Phoenix metropolitan area has moved a step closer to qualifying for designation as an attainment area for carbon monoxide, one of several common air pollutants regulated by the federal government.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a final rule stating that the Phoenix metropolitan non-attainment area met a 2001 deadline to comply with federal standards for carbon monoxide. The Phoenix area has met federal air quality standards for carbon monoxide since 1996.

"The EPA ruling is further evidence that we are taking the steps required to improve air quality in the Valley," Owens said. "Our vehicle emissions inspections, cleaner burning gasoline and trip reduction programs are clearly paying off and need to continue."

The finding of attainment is one of the last steps the EPA needs to take before acting on Arizona's request to have Phoenix formally re-designated as an attainment area. The other step is for EPA to finalize revisions to Arizona's cleaner burning gasoline program, a move that was proposed by the EPA Sept. 5.

Arizona's existing cleaner-burning gasoline program is one factor that has contributed to the Phoenix area being able to meet the air quality standard for carbon monoxide. Other efforts include EPA's new vehicle emissions standards, the state vehicle emissions inspection program, travel reduction programs, wintertime no-burn-days and clean-burning fireplace rule, and numerous other programs implemented by the state, Maricopa and Pinal counties and area cities and towns.

While these measures will continue to be required even after the Phoenix area has been re-designated as an attainment area for carbon monoxide, no further control measures will be required. Phoenix will also be required to retain contingency measures that could be put into effect if the area violates the carbon monoxide standard in the future.

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ADEQ Director Owens, Attorney General Goddard Announce Penalty for Hazardous Waste Violations

PHOENIX (Sept. 23, 2003) -- Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens announced today that Quartzsite-based Dome Rock Industries Inc. has agreed to pay a $100,000 penalty for a series of hazardous waste violations that occurred in 2000.

Dome Rock owns and operates a facility that collects, handles and processes wastes.

On two separate occasions, Dome Rock accepted loads of hazardous waste without a permit and then shipped the hazardous waste to another unpermitted facility where it was burned as used oil. On each occasion, Dome Rock also failed to comply with various reporting and tracking requirements. On another occasion, the company unlawfully stored hazardous waste at its facility.

"The proper tracking and disposal of hazardous waste is an absolute requirement for those who conduct business in Arizona," Owens said. "Those who violate the law like Dome Rock will be held accountable."

"Clearly violations such as these have the potential to threaten public health and safety," Goddard said. "The Office of the Attorney General will be very aggressive in pursuing violators."

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1,000 Local Arizona Students to Participate in Nationwide "Make a Splash" Water Quality Festival

PHOENIX (Sept. 23, 2003) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens will join 1,000 fourth-grade students from the Dysart and Peoria Unified School Districts to promote water quality education at the fourth annual "Make a Splash with Project WET" festival from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Surprise Recreation Campus on Friday, Sept. 26.

The festival consists of multiple learning stations where students actively engage in hands-on water activities and investigations. Local water quality and water resource experts serve as instructors at the water festival stations, creating bridges between teachers, students and local experts that often generate follow-up interest and educational activities.

Students will rotate between stations to learn about the hydrologic cycle and the Phoenix area watershed, before participating in a fun-filled water-hauling competition, intended to demonstrate to students the challenges faced by people living in the days before today's water delivery infrastructure.

"Each year we look forward to this event as an opportunity to share with students the importance of protecting water quality and the need to use water wisely," Owens said. "The festival setting provides a fun and interesting educational opportunity for teachers and students."

Sponsors of the local festival include the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the local office of the United States Bureau of Reclamation, Salt River Project, Central Arizona Project, Luke Air Force Base, McMicken Irrigation District, Maricopa Water District, RBF Consulting, Inc., and numerous other local sponsors.

Six hundred fourth graders in Safford, Ariz. will also take part in a water festival sponsored by ADEQ. Nationwide water festivals will be held at over 125 locations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Over 50,000 students are scheduled to participate in this year's event.

Established in 1984, Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) is an international water science and education program dedicated to teaching children around the world about water stewardship and conservation.

Project WET provides a complete curriculum of water education teaching materials, books and training opportunities, as well as a network of coordinators in every state of the continental U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Philippines. Project WET is based at and affiliated with Montana State University.

National support for Project WET is provided by Nestlé Waters North America.

To learn more about "Make a Splash with Project WET", visit www.projectwetusa.org .

(Note: Media interested in covering this event should contact Christina Worden at the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, (602) 771-4895 for program and schedule details.)

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ADEQ Director Owens, Attorney General Goddard Announce Settlements for Estes Landfill Contamination

PHOENIX (Sept. 22, 2003) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens and Attorney General Terry Goddard today announced settlement agreements totaling nearly $1.7 million with five businesses to resolve their liability for releases of hazardous substances at the Estes Landfill in Phoenix.

Under terms of the consent agreements, Frazee Industries, Inc.; GAC, Inc. (formerly known as Goettl Air Conditioning, Inc.); Honeywell International, Inc.; Safety-Kleen Systems, Inc.; and Waste Management of Arizona, Inc., will pay a combined total of $1,673,000 to help pay the costs of cleaning up the site. The settlement amounts are based on each of the company's proportionate share of the projected cleanup costs.

"As these settlements show, Arizona's Superfund Program is working to clean up important sites like this one along the Salt River," Owens said. "Through this program, we will continue to ensure that those responsible for pollution are held accountable."

The Arizona Attorney General's Office negotiated the settlement on behalf of the State. Assistant Attorney General Martin Jones was the lead attorney.

"This brings a total of nearly $5 million to this important clean-up effort, thanks to the collaboration between ADEQ and the Attorney General's Office," said Goddard. "It's a significant step toward completion of a long-standing effort to hold polluters responsible for their actions."

Groundwater contamination from the landfill extends in an oval shape for approximately one-half mile to the west and north of the landfill, bounded approximately by the Salt River to the north, the 153 Expressway to the east, Magnolia Street to the south, and 40th Street to the west. The landfill operated from the early 1950s to 1972.

Among the contaminants known to be present in groundwater under the landfill at levels exceeding state and federal standards are dichloroethylene (DCE), arsenic, chromium, vinyl chloride, trichloroethene (TCE), benzene and barium.

In October 2001, ADEQ completed a preliminary remedial action plan for cleaning up the site. Based on the predicted costs from this plan, and expenditures to date, the cost of the remedy is estimated to be approximately $6,655,389.

ADEQ has already recovered $3,325,000 from other parties. When the additional agreements are approved, the total amount recovered by ADEQ for use in cleaning up the contamination will be $4,998,000.

The consent agreements will be subject to 30-day public comment periods that will begin when the notices are published. Copies of the complaint, the consent agreements, and other papers related to this matter have been filed with the Clerk for the United States District Court in and for the District of Arizona in Phoenix.

The consent agreements may be reviewed at the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Records Management Center, 1110 West Washington Street, Phoenix, Arizona.

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ADEQ Hosts "Smoke School" in Tucson

PHOENIX (Sept. 19, 2003) -- The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality will be sponsoring a free "smoke school" Sept. 24 and 25 in Tucson, Ariz.

The training will be held at the Kino Veterans Memorial Community Center, 2801 E. Ajo Way, beginning at 8 a.m. The Sept. 24 session will consist of both classroom and field testing; the Sept. 25 session will be field testing only.

Smoke school is a nickname for formal certification in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's method for determining the opacity of smoke and dust emissions. During the testing session, participants evaluate several sets of black and white smoke readings.

ADEQ conducts smoke school training twice a year (spring and fall) at locations around the state. Training sessions this fall are also scheduled in Show Low, Tempe and Kingman.

To register for a training session, please contact Fred Ellis at (602) 771-4851, toll free at (800) 234-5677.

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ADEQ Hosts "Smoke School" in Show Low

PHOENIX (Sept. 16, 2003) -- The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality will be sponsoring a free "smoke school" Sept. 17 and 18 in Show Low, Ariz.

The training will be held at the Northland Pioneer Community College, 1001 W. Deuce of Clubs, Ponderosa Center Symposium Room beginning at 8:30 a.m. The Sept. 17 session will consist of both classroom and field testing, while the Sept. 18 session will be field testing only.

Smoke school is a nickname for formal certification in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's method for determining the opacity of smoke and dust emissions. During the testing session, participants evaluate several sets of black and white smoke readings.

ADEQ conducts smoke school training twice a year (spring and fall) at locations around the state. Training sessions this fall are also scheduled in Tucson, Tempe, and Kingman.

To register for a training session, please contact Fred Ellis at (602) 771-4851, toll free in Arizona at (800) 234-5677.

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ADEQ Director Steve Owens Praises $3.97 Million NADBank Grant for Somerton

PHOENIX (Sept. 16, 2003) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens today praised a recent decision by the North American Development Bank to provide a $3.97 million grant to help finance replacement of Somerton's wastewater treatment facility.

"Maintaining and modernizing infrastructure are among the most expensive and most important challenges facing border communities," Owens said. "This project will provide much needed capacity to meet Somerton's current and anticipated growth requirements, so I am pleased to see the NADBank's support of these efforts."

The new plant will have the capacity to treat 800,000 gallons of wastewater per day and will provide the added advantage of process redundancy, allowing for continued operation of the plant while selected areas undergo maintenance.

The project includes construction of a new wastewater treatment facility and replacement of the existing lagoon system at the current site.

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ADEQ Director Steve Owens Issues Notice of Violation to Kinder-Morgan Gasoline Spill

PHOENIX (Sept. 11, 2003) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens today issued a notice of violation to Kinder-Morgan Energy Partners for the release of 10,000 gallons of gasoline into Silvercroft Wash and the Silver Creek housing subdivision in Tucson July 30.

The notice is the first step in assessing possible penalties for environmental damage resulting from the spill and outlining the company's cleanup requirements.

The notice also requests all information related to pipeline maintenance and corrective actions taken in the past five years, so that ADEQ can better understand the steps necessary to prevent a future pipeline break.

"While much of the attention concerning the pipeline break has focused on the gasoline shortage in Maricopa County, it is important to note that we narrowly averted a disaster when the pipeline break sprayed 10,000 gallons of highly flammable gasoline in a residential community," Owens said."We were very lucky this time, and we need to make sure we never again have to rely on luck regarding this pipeline."

ADEQ has given the company 20 days to provide the information requested.

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EPA Approves Arizona's Plan to Eliminate MTBE From Summertime Cleaner Burning Gasoline

PHOENIX (Sept. 5, 2003) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today informed Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens that it has proposed approval of Arizona's revised air quality plan for the Phoenix metropolitan area that eliminates the need for MTBE in summertime Cleaner Burning Gasoline.

The proposed approval is the next step in eliminating the minimum oxygen content requirement in gasoline, which for the past seven years has required the addition of MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether) during the summer months to reduce ozone-forming emissions in the Valley. MTBE is a potential human carcinogen that has been detected nationwide in groundwater and has in some cases contaminated drinking water sources.

The elimination of the oxygen content requirement will expand the range of options for refiners to make Cleaner Burning Gasoline that meets Arizona's performance standards for air quality.

"This approval is good news for Valley residents because it eliminates the health and environmental risks associated with MTBE while giving gasoline producers the flexibility they need to provide economical gasoline that meets our clean air standards," Owens said.

Owens made eliminating the minimum oxygen content requirement a top priority when he became ADEQ director earlier this year. ADEQ first applied for the revision in March 2001 as an update to the state's air quality plan for metropolitan Phoenix, which includes portions of Pinal and Yavapai counties, but the request had been stalled while EPA was reviewing air quality data and modeling to confirm ADEQ's contention that the removal of the oxygen content requirement will not increase smog. After becoming ADEQ Director, Owens raised the issue directly with then EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, as well as other senior officials with EPA, and urged EPA to expedite approval of the request.

"Governor Napolitano and I have been pushing the EPA to reach a decision on this issue since early spring," Owens said."Although an earlier decision would not have had any effect on the recent gasoline shortage or price hikes, the approval is critically needed to prevent Arizona from continuing to rely on MTBE, which is being phased out by refineries nationwide. We are hopeful that full approval will be achieved in time to allow the phasing out of MTBE next summer."

The use of Arizona Cleaner Burning Gasoline has been responsible for dramatic improvements in the Valley's air quality since 1997. Its use in the metropolitan Phoenix non-attainment area reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 29 tons per day, nitrogen oxides by 7 tons per day and carbon monoxide (during winter months) by 43 tons per day.

The approval will have no effect on Arizona's winter blend of gasoline, which has used ethanol to effectively reduce carbon monoxide emissions in metropolitan Phoenix since it was introduced in 1989, and was enhanced with the addition of Cleaner Burning Gasoline requirements in 1997.

Gasoline standards are regulated by the U.S. EPA, ADEQ and the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures, which has worked cooperatively on this effort with ADEQ and is charged with ensuring gasoline sold in Arizona meets the state's performance standards.

"We have worked collaboratively with ADEQ on this issue under their leadership," said Art Macias, acting director of the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures. "As an agency that works closely with public and private stakeholders, this will enhance our efforts to provide long-term solutions that directly benefit Arizona."

The approval is subject to a 30-day comment period. Those desiring to submit comments should send them via email to tax.wienke@epa.gov or regular mail to Wienke Tax, U.S. EPA, Air Division, 75 Hawthorne Street (AIR-2), San Francisco, CA 94105-3901.

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ADEQ Partners With GateWay Community College to Train Volunteers of a Water Quality Monitoring Program

PHOENIX (Sept. 5, 2003) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens today announced the agency has teamed up with GateWay Community College in Phoenix to offer a course this fall on water quality sampling for volunteer groups that will support the agency's watershed monitoring program.

The one-credit course offered through GateWay's Water Resources Technology Program is designed to teach volunteers how to use water quality monitoring equipment, develop a sampling plan, collect samples and compile data.

"Our partnership with GateWay will give volunteers the opportunity and training to assist in the department's watershed monitoring and assessment program," Owens said."Trained volunteers will significantly enhance the agency's efforts to collect water quality information throughout the state and ensure that the data collected is credible and scientifically defensible for use by the department."

Through this program, ADEQ hopes to increase the use of volunteers around the state to assist with the department's watershed monitoring and assessment program.

Volunteers make visual observations of habitat, land uses, impact of storms, measure the physical and chemical characteristics of waters and assess the abundance and diversity of living creatures, such as aquatic insects, plants, fish, birds and other wildlife. Volunteers can also clean up garbage-strewn waters and become involved in restoring degraded habitats.

The data collected by volunteers can be used to establish baseline conditions or trends for water that would otherwise go unmonitored, evaluate the success of best management practices designed to mitigate problems, to develop further research or restoration efforts and alert state officials of potential problems.

As part of ADEQ's increased emphasis on outreach, the department has sought to enhance its relations with the state's universities and colleges.

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EPA Signals a Return to Cleaner Burning Gasoline in Maricopa County

PHOENIX (Sept. 3, 2003) -- Now that gasoline supplies are returning to normal in Maricopa County, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today notified Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens of its plan to lift the so-called waiver that has allowed the shipment and sale of conventional gasoline in the county since August 20.

The EPA had agreed to a request by Governor Napolitano to allow the sale of conventional gasoline as an emergency measure for 30 days or until it was no longer needed.

In a letter to ADEQ Director Owens, EPA said that the sale of conventional gasoline likely would continue at gasoline stations until the original Sept. 20 deadline, the EPA would prohibit gasoline distributors from shipping conventional gasoline destined for sale in Maricopa County as of midnight Sept. 6. In light of the EPA's decision, the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures also plans to exercise the same enforcement discretion.

"This process will ensure that we have an adequate supply of gasoline in the Valley while transitioning back to cleaner burning gasoline,"Owens said.

In its letter to ADEQ, the EPA cited the availability of Arizona Cleaner Burning Gasoline as the primary reason for withdrawing its enforcement discretion. Since the so-called waiver went into effect, EPA has not received any requests from gasoline distributors to use it.

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Sampling Confirms No PCE, TCE Contamination in Gilbert Drinking Water Aquifer

PHOENIX (Sept. 2, 2003) -- Officials from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality say samples taken recently from two monitoring wells in Gilbert confirm the migration of groundwater contamination in the area, but that the source of the town's drinking water remains safe.

The monitoring wells were installed in June and July to provide officials with advance warning of contaminant migration toward the municipal well and additional information about groundwater flow in the area.

"These samples confirm what we suspected,"s aid Shannon Davis, head of ADEQ's Waste Programs Division. "We were fairly certain that contamination was in the shallow groundwater in the vicinity of the town's drinking water production well 15. What we did not know was the depth of the contamination. The good news is that this sampling has given us confidence that the contamination in the upper aquifer is isolated from the lower aquifer, which serves as the source of the town's drinking water, and that the drinking water supply has not been impacted."

Samples collected from the upper aquifer detected levels of perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE) that exceeded state and federal safe drinking water standards. Neither of these chemicals was detected in the lower aquifer.

PCE in the upper aquifer was measured at 16 micrograms per liter; the acceptable limit is 5. TCE was measured at 6 micrograms per liter; the acceptable limit is 5.

Based in data gained during installation of the wells, officials say hundreds of feet of clay separates the upper and lower aquifers, which provides a level of assurance that the contamination will not affect the municipal water supply.

In early 2001, the Town of Gilbert discovered PCE contamination at one of its monitoring wells. One source of the contamination is believed to be a former copper sulfate production facility near Cooper Road and Commerce Avenue.

Since that time, ADEQ has been working closely with town officials to determine the extent of the contamination, while a long-term cleanup strategy is developed.

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