Newsroom: Press Release Archive: February 2004
  • Feb. 26, 2004: ADEQ Seeks Public Comments on Second Draft of 2004 Status of Water Quality in Arizona Report
  • Feb. 19, 2004: ADEQ Proposes Gilbert Site for Addition to State Superfund Program
  • Feb. 18, 2004: Reducing Dust Emissions Near Salt River Requires More Work, Additional Controls
  • Feb. 17, 2004: ADEQ Issues Fish Consumption Advisory for Alamo Lake
  • Feb. 17, 2004: ADEQ Issues Fish Consumption Advisory for Coors Lake
  • Feb. 10, 2004: Testing Underway to Determine Needs of New Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant

ADEQ Seeks Public Comments on Second Draft of 2004 Status of Water Quality in Arizona Report

PHOENIX (Feb. 26, 2004) -- The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has released a second draft of its 2004 Status of Water Quality in Arizona Report and is soliciting public feedback before a final version is sent to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The first draft, released in November 2003, has been revised in response to comments from the EPA and the public. The report also is known as Arizona's Integrated 305(b) assessment and 303(d) listing report.

The biannual report seeks to inform Arizonans of the status of state waters, as well as specifying waterways that do not meet state surface water quality standards. The report provides extensive background information on the ecology and hydrology of the state, explains in detail the watershed assessment process, and highlights ADEQ's efforts to maintain the integrity of the state's watersheds and surface water resources.

A few notable changes have been made for the second draft of the report, including more protective methods for assessing surface water based on potential long-term impact to aquatic life and other wildlife. Also, a methodology for assessing the new suspended sediment concentration standard, which replaced the state's turbidity standard beginning in 2002, was developed and employed. The new methods result in more water bodies being classified as impaired, officials say.

The report is now available. A hard copy may be requested by phoning (602) 771-4569 or, toll free, at (800) 234-5677.

When ordering a copy, please indicate whether a PDF file on a CD with color graphics or a black and white paper copy is preferred. Fees for copies and CDs will be applied. Comments can be submitted until March 29, 2004 to Melanie Diroll or by postal mail addressed to ADEQ, Hydrologic Support and Assessment Section, 5415A-1, 1110 W. Washington Street, Phoenix, AZ 85007. Specific questions about the report can be directed to Melanie Diroll at (602) 771-4616.

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ADEQ Proposes Gilbert Site for Addition to State Superfund Program

PHOENIX (Feb. 19, 2004) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens today proposed adding an area near Cooper Road and Commerce Avenue in Gilbert to the list of sites that receive state funding to assess and cleanup contaminated soil and groundwater.

Owens said groundwater samples collected in September 2003 from monitoring wells in the area have confirmed the presence of groundwater contamination, but that the source of the town's drinking water remains safe.

ADEQ first learned of the contamination in 1990, when soil samples detected the presence of perchloroethylene (PCE) in soil and groundwater near the site. PCE is a solvent with a wide range of industrial applications. In early 2001, the Town of Gilbert discovered PCE contamination at one of its monitoring wells that may be linked to a former copper sulfate production facility in the area.

In June 2003, ADEQ installed two monitoring wells between known groundwater contamination and town well number 15, one of the town's municipal water supply wells. Since that time, ADEQ has been coordinating with town officials who are closely monitoring water quality at the town's drinking water production well. Town officials say they are committed to working with ADEQ to see that the cleanup process is a success.

"The good news is that we know where the contamination is, and that the drinking water supply has not been affected," said ADEQ Director Steve Owens. "Our goal now is to further assess the extent of contamination and develop a remediation strategy."

Owens said listing on the registry is the next step in a detailed process to fully assess the nature and extent of the contamination, determine an appropriate cleanup strategy and seek to recover costs for the project from those responsible for the contamination.

The site is bounded approximately to the north by Guadalupe Road, to the south by the Western Canal, to the east by the former Unichem property located at 619 W. Commerce Avenue, and to the west by Cooper Road. Proposed listing of the site on the Registry is due in part to the presence of hazardous substances in the groundwater found previously.

The site was home to a Unichem industrial facility, which changed ownership several times since it was first constructed by Unichem in 1977. The facility housed copper sulphate extraction operations for the company - a process that uses a variety of volatile organic compounds and other chemicals. At some point during plant's operation these chemicals found their way into the nearby soil and infiltrated the groundwater beneath the plant.

The state cleanup fund was created by the Arizona legislature in 1986 and completely reformed in 1997 to pay for hazardous substance cleanup projects for areas with contaminated soil, groundwater or surface water. ADEQ administers the fund under its Waste Programs Division.

ADEQ encourages public comment on the proposed listing of the site, and welcomes questions from the public on the fund. ADEQ will accept public comments until Friday, March 24, 2004. Members of the public may request site information and submit comments by postal mail or e-mail to Deb Goodwin, Site Assessment Unit, 1110 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007.

Interested parties may also contact George Pettit, Town Manager of Gilbert, at (480) 503-6864 for more information.

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Reducing Dust Emissions Near Salt River Requires More Work, Additional Controls>

PHOENIX (Feb. 18, 2004) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens said today that challenges associated with reducing particulate levels along the Salt River basin will require additional pollution control measures to bring the area into attainment with federal air quality standards.

Since 1990, the Phoenix metropolitan area has been unable to meet federal Clean Air Act standards for particulate matter 10 micrometers and smaller in size (often referred to as PM10). These small airborne particles can exacerbate respiratory problems for children, senior citizens and those with respiratory illnesses such as asthma or chronic bronchitis.

While significant progress has been made in reducing particulate emissions in Maricopa County, some of the monitoring sites in the corridor roughly bounded by 10th Street to the east, and 59th Avenue to the west, between Baseline and Van Buren Streets continue to record levels that exceed federal air quality standards on days with stagnant air and when winds exceed 15 miles per hour.

Under high-wind conditions, pollution levels are the highest, when as much as 67 additional tons of dust becomes airborne per day in this area, according to recent air quality studies.

"The Salt River basin is clearly an area where present dust control measures are not achieving the necessary results, so we are going to be working with stakeholders to develop some new ones," Owens said.

ADEQ has forwarded its latest plan to meet those standards to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for review. Once approved, the plan will serve as a basis for upcoming discussions between the department and a variety of stakeholders, including city and county officials to identify ways to further reduce PM10 emissions.

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ADEQ Issues Fish Consumption Advisory for Alamo Lake

PHOENIX (Feb. 17, 2004) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens announced today that the departments of Environmental Quality, Game and Fish and Health Services are recommending that people limit consumption of certain fish caught from Alamo Lake, located 34 miles north of Wenden in Mohave and LaPaz Counties.

ADEQ recently discovered unhealthful levels of mercury in fish caught at those lakes. The advisory recommends that people limit consumption of largemouth bass and black crappie as follows:

  • Children under the age of six: No consumption
  • Women of child bearing age: One 8 oz. fish meal per month
  • All other adult women Three 8 oz. fish meals per month
  • Adult men: Four 8 oz. fish meals per month.

Consumption limits for channel catfish are as follows:

  • Children under the age of six: No consumption
  • Women of child bearing age: One 8 oz. fish meal per month
  • All other adult women: Five 8 oz. fish meals per month
  • Adult men: Six 8 oz. fish meals per month

Mercury is a toxic pollutant that has been identified as causing numerous health problems when ingested, most notably its toxicity to the central nervous system. Infants and pregnant or nursing mothers are considered most at risk to possible health effects.

"Consuming fish contaminated with mercury is the most common method of human exposure," Owens said. "While we continue our efforts to eliminate the introduction of mercury into the environment, these advisories serve as a first line of defense for protecting public health."

The advisory does not limit use of the lakes for fishing, bird watching, swimming or other recreational uses. Mercury is quickly absorbed by bacteria in sediments and passed along via the food chain to living organisms. Typically very little mercury remains in the water.

The problem of fish contaminated by high levels of mercury occurs when larger fish absorb mercury from smaller fish and insects which have become contaminated, a process called bioaccumulation. Average concentrations of 0.3 - 0.6 milligrams per kilogram (mg/Kg) found throughout a lake will typically result in a fish consumption advisory being issued for the water body.

Fish consumption advisories remain in place for 12 lakes throughout the state, including recent additions. Other lakes under advisory include Upper and Lower Lake Mary, Lyman Lake, Pena Blanca Lake, Soldier Lake, Soldier Annex and Long Lake. ADEQ officials are continuing to test the lake to identify the source of contamination. The advisories will remain in effect until further notice.

A list of questions and answers concerning this fish advisory is available.

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ADEQ Issues Fish Consumption Advisory for Coors Lake

PHOENIX (Feb. 17, 2004) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens announced today that the departments of Environmental Quality, Game and Fish and Health Services are recommending that people not eat certain fish caught from Coors Lake, located in the town of Bagdad in Yavapai County.

ADEQ recently discovered unhealthful levels of mercury in fish caught at those lakes. The advisory recommends that people limit consumption of largemouth bass as follows:

  • Children under the age of six: No consumption
  • Women of child bearing age: One 8 oz. fish meal per month
  • All other adult women: Three 8 oz. fish meals per month
  • Adult men: Four 8 oz. fish meals per month

No consumption limits are expected to be set for bluegill or black crappie caught from the lake.

Mercury is a toxic pollutant that has been identified as causing numerous health problems when ingested, most notably its toxicity to the central nervous system. Infants and pregnant or nursing mothers are considered most at risk to possible health effects.

"Consuming fish contaminated with mercury is the most common method of human exposure," Owens said. "While we continue our efforts to eliminate the introduction of mercury into the environment, these advisories serve as a first line of defense for protecting public health."

The advisory does not limit use of the lakes for fishing, bird watching, swimming or other recreational uses. Mercury is quickly absorbed by bacteria in sediments and passed along via the food chain to living organisms. Typically, very little mercury remains in the water.

The problem of fish contaminated by high levels of mercury occurs when larger fish absorb mercury from smaller fish and insects which have become contaminated, a process called bioaccumulation. Average concentrations of 0.3 - 0.6 milligrams per kilogram (mg/Kg) found throughout a lake will typically result in a fish consumption advisory being issued for the water body.

Fish consumption advisories remain in place for 12 lakes throughout the state, including recent additions. Other lakes under advisory include Upper and Lower Lake Mary, Lyman Lake, Pena Blanca Lake, Soldier Lake, Soldier Annex and Long Lake. ADEQ officials are continuing to test the lake to identify the source of contamination. The advisories will remain in effect until further notice.

A list of questions and answers concerning this fish advisory is available.

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Testing Underway to Determine Needs of New Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant

PHOENIX (Feb. 10, 2004) -- As a significant step toward the construction of a new international wastewater treatment plant in Nogales, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the International Boundary & Water Commission and the city of Nogales have begun testing the characteristics of wastewater flowing north through a 9-mile pipeline from Nogales, Sonora.

The testing will provide information about flow rates and help identify possible sources of non-municipal wastewater entering the pipeline, both major goals during the planning process.

For nearly a decade, officials have been exploring options to meet the growing infrastructure needs of communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. In the past several years, ADEQ has been working closely with the city of Nogales, the IBWC, the Border Environmental Cooperation Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the North American Development Bank to develop plans for a new wastewater treatment facility and to rehabilitate the pipeline.

"Designing and building a new international wastewater treatment facility in Nogales is one of the most important environmental projects along the Arizona-Mexico border," said ADEQ Director Steve Owens. "The results of the ongoing testing will provide vital information needed to finalize the design and complete the project."

ADEQ, in coordination with local, federal and international agencies, installed sampling and testing equipment in the line to continuously monitor the wastewater for acidity, temperature, salinity, corrosion potential and dissolved oxygen for 30 days.

In addition, daily samples are being collected to determine the organic strength of the wastewater and levels of nitrogen and trace contaminants including metals. The sampling will characterize the wastewater - information that officials need as they develop plans to upgrade and revitalize both the plant and the interceptor pipeline.

The redesign and reconstruction process for the facility still faces several major challenges. The system must deal with fluctuating flows and industrial discharges of unknown origin that the present plant is not equipped to treat. Finally, the wastewater arriving through the pipeline consistently contains high levels of gravel, sand, and silt loads, which disrupt wastewater treatment processes.

All of these issues can be further investigated and helpful information revealed through the current testing, ADEQ officials say.

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