Newsroom: Press Release Archive: August 2004
  • Aug. 26, 2004: ADEQ Director Owens, Attorney General Goddard Announce Consent Judgment for City of El Mirage
  • Aug. 26, 2004: ADEQ Adds Former Dry Cleaner Site to State Superfund Program
  • Aug. 19, 2004: ADEQ Seeking Water Quality Improvement Grant Applications
  • Aug. 17, 2004: ADEQ Announces New Division to Clean Up Leaking Underground Storage Tanks
  • Aug. 12, 2004: ADEQ Director Owens Announces Effort To Reduce Harmful Emissions From School Bus Idling
  • Aug. 11, 2004: ADEQ Issues Ozone Health Watch for Phoenix Metropolitan Area
  • Aug. 9, 2004: ADEQ Issues Ozone Health Watch for Phoenix Metropolitan Area

ADEQ Director Owens, Attorney General Goddard Announce Consent Judgment for City of El Mirage

PHOENIX (Aug. 26, 2004) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens and Attorney General Terry Goddard today announced a consent judgment with the City of El Mirage that requires significant improvements to the City's wastewater collection and treatment operations. The action stems from a 2002 discharge of untreated wastewater into the Agua Fria River.

The enforcement action followed the discharge of more than 847,000 gallons of untreated wastewater into the river near the City's former wastewater treatment facility. Similar discharges of partially treated effluent in 2000 and 2001 also were addressed in the judgment.

Under the terms of the judgment, the City is required to implement pretreatment measures costing $60,000 annually and to build a new $950,000 reclaimed water storage facility.

"As a result of this case, the City is making significant improvements to its wastewater collection and treatment process," Owens said. "These corrective actions should ensure that this type of incident never occurs again."

In addition to the infrastructure changes required by the judgment, the City has upgraded from the former wastewater treatment plant - where the non-permitted discharges took place- to a new facility with a treatment capacity of 3.6 million gallons per day.

City officials informed ADEQ of the incidents and later reported that inefficient operation of the plant was the primary cause. There was no immediate public health threat from the discharge, and the city took appropriate steps to disinfect the area surrounding the Agua Fria and clean up remnants of the spill.

"Discharges such as those by El Mirage could constitute a significant public health threat," Goddard said. "It is important for the state to work with local municipalities in resolving not only the immediate violations, but implementing proper control measures to prevent non-permitted discharges in the future."

The City will have 180 days from the date of the judgment to develop and submit to ADEQ a plan for pretreatment of wastewater effluent. The city will have one year to plan and construct the reclaimed water storage facility. The consent judgment also requires the city to pay a $9,900 civil penalty for the permit violations.

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ADEQ Adds Former Dry Cleaner Site to State Superfund Program

PHOENIX (Aug. 26, 2004) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens today announced the addition of an area of contaminated groundwater in northern Phoenix to the Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund registry, the state superfund program that assists in the cleanup of contaminated sites throughout Arizona.

The site encompasses property north of Bethany Home Road, bounded to the east by Sixth Avenue and to the west by Eighth Avenue and to the north by Berridge Lane. The full property is 2.6 acres in size, and was housed a commercial shopping center between 1952 and 1992. During that time, a grocer, clothing retailers, a bakery, other retail stores and a dry cleaning service occupied space in the center. During the initial development and use of the site, businesses operated on septic systems, and ADEQ officials believe that during that time period contaminated wastewater from dry cleaning operations made its way into the soil. The two on-site septic tanks have since been removed, and all buildings were demolished in 1994.

Groundwater contaminated with tetrachloroethylene (PCE), a chemical compound widely used in commercial dry cleaning, was discovered at the site in 1995.

Analytical results from sampling conducted at the site confirm the presence of PCE in soil and groundwater. Monitoring wells installed in 1995 detected PCE concentrations ranging from 200 to 15,000 micrograms per liter, well above the groundwater standard of 5 micrograms per liter.

Despite the high levels of PCE, ADEQ officials say the plume does not affect any current drinking water source used by the City of Phoenix. There are no drinking water production wells within the confines of the site, but ADEQ is closely monitoring the movement of the groundwater plume. Two Salt River Project irrigation wells near the site have been tested, and PCE levels have been detected below the standard.

"The addition of this site to the registry is the first step in getting this site cleaned up," Owens said. ";This facility does not currently pose any immediate threat to health and safety but it is important to initiate cleanup efforts now before those affected groundwater sources are needed."

This is the third site that ADEQ has added to the registry this year, Owens added. "This administration is very serious about cleaning up contaminated groundwater, and mitigating any potential health effects," Owens said.

Addition of this site brings the total number of sites on the state WQARF list to 36.

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ADEQ Seeking Water Quality Improvement Grant Applications

PHOENIX (Aug. 19, 2004) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens today announced ADEQ is accepting applications for more than &1.5 million in Water Quality Improvement Grants. The grants will be allocated statewide for projects that prevent or reduce water pollution. Grant applications must be submitted to ADEQ by 3 p.m., Oct. 20, 2004.

Funding is available to public and private entities in Arizona that wish to take on projects to reduce nonpoint source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution is the nation's largest threat to water quality, and occurs when rainfall, melting snow, or irrigation runoff transports pollutants to rivers, lakes, coastal waters or groundwater sources. Agriculture, forestry, grazing, septic systems, recreational boating, urban runoff and construction can all contribute to nonpoint source pollution.

"The Water Quality Improvement Grant Program provides funding at the local level to implement creative approaches to improve water quality in Arizona," Owens said. "Through federal, state and local partnerships, we are achieving our goal of providing cleaner, safer waters and ensuring their integrity for future generations."

For more information about the grant program, contact Jean Ann Rodine, ADEQ Water Quality Improvement Grant Coordinator, at (602) 771-4635 or, toll-free, (800) 234-5677. More information is available on ADEQs Web site.

A series of workshops will be held around the state to help those interested in applying for a grant or learning more about the Water Quality Improvement Grant Program. A schedule of the workshops scheduled is below.

Water Quality Improvement Grant Workshop Schedule
Location2004 Dates and TimesPlaceAddress
FlagstaffAugust 19 at 2 p.m.Coconino Community College
Executive Board Room
2800 S. Lone Tree Rd.
TucsonAugust 24 at 2:30 p.m.Tucson-Pima Public Library
Meeting Room Lower Level I
101 N. Stone Ave.
Sierra VistaAugust 25 at 2 p.m.Pete Castro Maintenance Center
Training Room
401 Giulio Cesare Ave.
PrescottAugust 31 at 2 p.m.Prescott Public Library
Meeting Room
215 E. Goodwin St.
YumaSeptember 2 at 2 p.m.Public Works City Building
Training Room
155 W. 14th St.
PaysonSeptember 7 at 2 p.m.Payson Public Library
Meeting Room
328 N. McLane Rd.
SpringervilleSeptember 8 at 2 p.m. Springerville Fire Department
Meeting Room
23 S. Papago
SaffordSeptember 9 at 2 p.m.Graham County General Service921 Thatcher Blvd.

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ADEQ Announces New Division to Clean Up Leaking Underground Storage Tanks

PHOENIX (Aug. 17, 2004) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens today announced the creation of a new, separate division within ADEQ that will focus on cleaning up contamination from leaking underground storage tanks (LUSTs) throughout the state.

Owens said that creation of the new Tank Programs Division will help ADEQ effectively implement a new state law that gradually phases out the State Assurance Fund (SAF), which provides funding for the removal and cleanup of LUSTs. The law, which takes effect August 25, phases out eligibility for funding from the SAF for new releases after June 30, 2006, and ultimately eliminates the fund by 2013.

"This new division will reinforce our efforts to clean up contamination caused by improperly maintained underground storage tanks," Owens said. "We are committed to protecting our precious soil and groundwater resources and reducing potential threats to the public from leaking USTs."

The new Tank Programs Division will be headed by Philip McNeely, who managed the Underground Storage Tank program at ADEQ from 1998 to 2000 and has overseen the state Superfund program since then.

Owens said that in addition to focusing on cleanup efforts, the new division will step up inspections of facilities that have USTs and work to ensure that UST owners and operators are meeting all the requirements of state law. "We intend to make sure that anyone who owns or operates an underground storage tank in Arizona is doing so safely and in compliance with the law," Owens said.

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ADEQ Director Owens Announces Effort To Reduce Harmful Emissions From School Bus Idling

PHOENIX (Aug. 12, 2004) -- With the new school year beginning, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens today announced that ADEQ has launched a pilot program with several school districts throughout the state to reduce children's exposure to harmful diesel emissions from buses idling near schools. The program is part of ADEQ's Children's Environmental Health Project to reduce environmental risks to children's health.

ADEQ has worked with school districts for the past several months to draft a bus idling policy. The policy is being implemented by the districts involved in the pilot program, and ADEQ will be presenting the policy to other school districts for their consideration, Owens said. ADEQ also is offering technical assistance for those districts looking to reduce bus idling.

Idling school buses can expose school children to diesel exhaust on a daily basis, Owens said. Diesel emissions can aggravate respiratory illnesses such as asthma and have been linked to heart and lung disease. One of the primary components of diesel emissions, carbon monoxide, also can reduce alertness and learning capacity in children.

"Our goal is to protect children from exposure to harmful diesel emissions," Owens said. "We are pleased to be working with a strong cross-section of school districts across Arizona to reduce bus idling."

Key elements in the draft policy include having drivers turn off buses upon reaching a school or other location and not turn on the engine until the vehicle is ready to depart; parking buses at least 100 feet from a school air intake system; and posting appropriate signage advising drivers to limit idling near the school.

Owens said the policy protects children's health while allowing for flexibility during different times of the year. For example, the policy provides exemptions for times when heat or air conditioning may be needed and for idling when needed to operate health, safety and emergency equipment, or during maintenance operations.

The school districts participating in the pilot project are:

  • Tucson Unified School District
  • Ampitheater Public Schools (Tucson)
  • Sunnyside Unified School District (Tucson)
  • Scottsdale Unified School District
  • Paradise Valley Unified School District
  • Gilbert Unified School District
  • Flagstaff Unified School District

"We will be implementing the bus idling procedures recommended by ADEQ," said Fred Fennell, Director of Transportation Services for the Flagstaff Unified School District. "It is one more way we get to make our kids safer. Everything we can do to make our kids safer is better for all of us."

"Our district is glad to be part of this new procedure for which its employees and students benefit," said Marc Lappitt, Director of Transportation for Amphitheater Public Schools in Tucson. "Cleaner air and fuel savings are attainable by all of us working together."

"We are very supportive of the policy and intend to implement it in full," added Dan Shearer, Director of Transportation for the Scottsdale Unified School District. "We believe that the health and safety of children is the top priority of school district transportation services."

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ADEQ Issues Ozone Health Watch for Phoenix Metropolitan Area

PHOENIX (Aug. 11, 2004) -- The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has issued an Ozone Health Watch for the Phoenix metropolitan area for Thursday, Aug. 12, as ground-level ozone concentrations are expected to approach national air quality standards.

ADEQ suggests children, senior citizens, and those with respiratory illnesses reduce or reschedule any outdoor activity on Thursday. ADEQ forecasters expect ozone levels to be highest during late afternoon hours.

Dry, warm conditions are providing an ideal environment for ozone formation in the Valley, and relatively light winds will keep higher ozone levels in the Valley through much of Thursday. ADEQ issued an Ozone Health Watch for Tuesday and Ozone levels approached the federal standard of 85 parts per billion in north and central Phoenix. Higher temperatures and clear skies are expected to continue through Friday, which may generate another Health Watch for later in the week, but ADEQ forecasters expect the area of high pressure hanging over the Valley to reduce in strength and provide some relief from higher temperatures through the weekend.

Daily air quality forecasts are located on ADEQ's Web site or by telephone at (602) 771-2367.

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ADEQ Issues Ozone Health Watch for Phoenix Metropolitan Area

PHOENIX (Aug. 9, 2004) -- The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has issued an Ozone Health Watch for the Phoenix metropolitan area for Tuesday, Aug. 10 due to the possibility of ground-level ozone concentrations approaching national air quality standards.

ADEQ suggests that children, senior citizens, and those with respiratory illnesses reduce any prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors on Tuesday or reschedule activities to nighttime hours, when ozone concentrations are lower. Ozone concentrations may reach levels that can aggravate respiratory conditions, such as asthma.

Abnormally dry and hot weather has occurred the past few days because an upper level high pressure area is positioned over the Valley. Expected near-record daytime temperatures under mostly clear skies, suggests that ozone concentrations have the potential to increase significantly from Sunday's levels. The area of high pressure -- which is migrating north -- is expected to allow more moisture into the Valley and bring the possibility of thunderstorms, which may stem higher ozone levels later in the week. Typically, the highest ozone levels will be found in the late afternoon hours.

Daily air quality forecasts are located on ADEQ's Web site or by telephone at (602) 771-2367.

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