Newsroom: Press Release Archive: June 2004
  • June 30, 2004: ADEQ Monitoring Air Quality Near Willow Fire
  • June 29, 2004: ADEQ Completes Review of Drinking Water Sources
  • June 28, 2004: ADEQ Director Owens Announces EPA Decision to Designate Arizona Compliant with Fine Particulate Matter Standard
  • June 21, 2004: Phelps Dodge Settles with Arizona and EPA for $1.4 Million
  • June 14, 2004: ADEQ Director Steve Owens Adds Gilbert Unichem Site to State Superfund Program
  • June 10, 2004: ADEQ Director Owens Issues Reminder to Salt River Reservoirs Visitors
  • June 10, 2004: ADEQ Director Owens Extends Solid Waste Exemption to Help Communities Recovering from Aspen Fire
  • June 8, 2004: ADEQ Completes Cleanup of Nogales Wash
  • June 2, 2004: Phoenix Site Added to State Superfund Registry
  • June 1, 2004: ADEQ Issues High Pollution Advisory for Phoenix Metropolitan Area

ADEQ Monitoring Air Quality Near Willow Fire

PHOENIX (June 30, 2004) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens said today that ADEQ has located air monitoring equipment in Payson monitoring air quality within the town of Payson, as the Willow fire continues to burn west of Payson.

Owens directed ADEQ's Hazardous Air Response Team to install monitoring equipment at two sites in Payson on Monday, and air quality monitoring has continued since that time. Owens said that so far particulate matter in the smoke from the Payson area has not reached levels that would be harmful to human health, but ADEQ will continue to monitor smoke levels closely.

"Fortunately, the levels do not present any reason for concern," Owens said. "We want everyone in the area to know that we will continue to monitor air quality and will notify residents if the smoke level reaches unhealthful levels."

The fire broke out late last week due to a lightning strike in the area. Current reports from Payson indicate that smoke levels have decreased and the fire is now three to five percent contained.

Back to the top of the page


ADEQ Completes Review of Drinking Water Sources

PHOENIX (June 29, 2004) -- The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has completed an evaluation of public drinking water sources to help Arizonans understand better where their drinking water comes from.

The review process is part of ADEQ's Source Water Assessment Program, which analyzes drinking water sources for the more than 1,500 public water systems throughout the state, following guidelines under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The reports summarize source water contamination risks associated with a particular public water system and determine the degree to which each water source is protected. The program seeks to encourage community members to recognize the importance of source water protection and facilitate means for citizens to assist in the protection process.

"Source water protection is important for preserving clean, safe drinking water,"ADEQ Director Steve Owens said. "When communities better understand the nature of their drinking water sources and what types of activities could threaten the integrity of source waters, they are better equipped to protect those resources."

To receive a copy of a draft report for your area or for more information, contact ADEQ's Source Water Assessment unit at (602) 771-4561, toll free (800) 234-5677.

Back to the top of the page


ADEQ Director Owens Announces EPA Decision to Designate Arizona Compliant with Fine Particulate Matter Standard

PHOENIX (June 28, 2004) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens today announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated Arizona as compliant with National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in size, referred to as PM2.5.

"This important decision underscores the continued progress we are making in addressing air pollution throughout the state," Owens said.

States are required to submit requests for designation under the U.S. Clean Air Act. The decision does not affect separate designations for coarse particulate matter (PM10) or ozone.

The tiny particles that fall under this designation come from multiple sources, such as industrial and automobile and diesel engine emissions. These fine particles, which are as small as a grain of flour, pose a significant threat to public health because they can persist in the ambient air for an extended period of time. Ingestion of the particles can aggravate respiratory illnesses, including asthma, and the particles can be difficult to expel from the lungs.

The decision covers all Arizona cities and counties, excluding tribal lands.

Back to the top of the page


Phelps Dodge Settles with Arizona and EPA for $1.4 Million

PHOENIX (June 21, 2004) -- The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the Arizona Attorney General's Office have settled a joint lawsuit against Phelps Dodge Corporation for environmental violations committed at its Sierrita mine, located near Tucson. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency joined the lawsuit, and will share the $1.4 million penalty assessed for allegedly violating the Clean Air Act. The environmental violations alleged in the joint lawsuit were committed by Phelps Dodge's predecessor, Cypress Sierrita Corporation.

The Sierrita mine and processing plant is a major source of air pollution, and the EPA estimates that more than 1,000 tons of sulfur dioxide were illegally discharged into the air from the copper mine and ore processing plant. The state sought civil penalties for violations of notification, testing and reporting requirements pursuant to the New Source Performance Standards.

The alleged violations from the state of Arizona included:

  • Cypress Sierrita Corporation failed to notify ADEQ about new equipment installed at the Sierrita mine as required by Arizona State law.
  • Cypress Sierrita Corporation failed to perform tests to ensure the mine's air pollution control equipment could control any new pollution.
  • Cypress Sierrita Corporation failed to submit ongoing reports about how well the air pollution control equipment was performing between 1993 through 1998.

The settlement includes the following:

  • Phelps Dodge will pay a total of $1.4 million in monetary penalties. The state of Arizona will receive $140,000 of that total.
  • Phelps Dodge must install a continuous emission monitor on the molybdenum roasters to ensure it is removing at least 90 percent of the sulfur dioxide.
  • Phelps Dodge must seek revisions to its air quality permit to ensure all of its equipment is properly identified, tested and monitored for pollution emissions.

Phelps Dodge has since corrected these violations.

"These were serious violations of the law committed by Cypress Sierrita," Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens said. "Phelps Dodge has acted appropriately in correcting the violations and resolving this matter."

In addition to the State violations, the EPA sought additional penalties for these violations as well as penalties for Cypress Sierrita Corporation's failure to obtain proper permits for several new pieces of equipment installed at the mine between 1982 and 1996.

The soot or particulate matter discharged from the mine affects the respiratory system and can cause damage to lung tissue and premature death. The elderly, children, and people with chronic lung disease, influenza, or asthma are especially sensitive to high levels of particulate matter.

The settlement was filed in the United States District Court of Arizona in Tucson, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

Back to the top of the page


ADEQ Director Steve Owens Adds Gilbert Unichem Site to State Superfund Program

PHOENIX (June 14, 2004) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens announced today that the former Unichem industrial facility site in Gilbert has been added to the Arizona Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund (WQARF) Registry, the state's Superfund program that provides funding for the study, monitoring and cleanup of contaminated sites.

The site is located near Cooper Road and Commerce Avenue in Gilbert, bounded to the north by Guadalupe Road, to the south by the Western Canal, to the west by Cooper Road and to the east by the eastern property boundary of the former Unichem facility. The Unichem facility was originally constructed in 1977 and housed copper sulphate extraction operations.

Groundwater at the site is contaminated with tetrachloroethylene (PCE) -- an industrial solvent that is used in manufacturing processes to degrease metals. PCE is also used in retail dry cleaning operations.

"This action is an important first step toward getting this site cleaned up," Owens said. "We will continue to work with the Town of Gilbert in identifying potential responsible parties and keeping the community involved throughout the cleanup process."

Next steps for the site include an initial remedial investigation by ADEQ staff, which will further clarify the boundaries of the contaminated groundwater plume, and identify best practices for remediation of the site. ADEQ will attempt to identify parties responsible for the contamination as part of its investigation, Owens said. Simon New Mexico, which owns the property, has already been identified as a potentially responsible party.

In connection with the listing, Owens said that ADEQ will form a community advisory board to provide a forum for suggestions and issues to be heard from citizens and community stakeholders. ADEQ will also continue to work with the Town of Gilbert in identifying responsible parties and furthering remediation activities, Owens said.

This is the second addition to the registry in recent weeks and the addition of this site brings the total number of registry sites to 35.

Back to the top of the page


ADEQ Director Owens Issues Reminder to Salt River Reservoirs VisitorsRecent Fish Kills Prompt Continued Monitoring and Assessment

PHOENIX (June 10, 2004) -- Recent discoveries of fish kills at Apache, Canyon and Saguaro Lakes have prompted ADEQ Director Steve Owens to remind the public today to continue to exercise caution when visiting the lakes.

ADEQ is currently working with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona Department of Health Services, the Tonto National Forest, Salt River Project and the University of Arizona to assess and characterize the cause of the fish kills.

Combined monitoring efforts by ADEQ, Arizona Game and Fish Department and the University of Arizona have confirmed the presence of potentially toxic algae within the lakes. The algae - Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii - have become dominant in Apache Lake and have been detected in other Valley reservoirs. The effects of the toxins are varied and can affect aquatic life, domestic animals, pets or humans that come into contact with the algae. The release of the toxins may occur within several hours to several days of coming into contact with the algae and can result in anything from mild stress to mortality in aquatic organisms. Symptoms in humans include mild skin irritation, nausea, vomiting or respiratory distress.

Owens suggested that members of the public follow the advice outlined in a May 21st news release issued by ADEQ.

"We continue to remind people that the lakes are safe for recreation," Owens said. "However, we also want people to be aware of the risks associated with ingesting this algae and to limit their exposure to water that is green-tinged or foamy."

Until further notice, the public should observe the following guidance when recreating in and around the reservoirs:

  • Boaters and swimmers are advised to avoid contact with and ingestion of water in areas where the water is green-tinged or foamy. Particular attention should be given to children and pets, which may ingest large quantities of water.
  • The toxins produced by these algae do not appear to collect in fish tissue, but anglers should take a common-sense approach to eating fish caught from lakes. If the fish looks or smells unhealthy or was dead when caught, it should not be eaten. Fish caught should be thoroughly cleaned, gutted and cooked before eating.

This blue-green algae is a member of a group of algae that are commonly associated with summertime conditions - high temperatures, low wind, increased nutrient loadings. In Arizona, two factors may cause these early blooms - ongoing drought conditions prevent replenishing supplies of water from snowmelt and unusually high levels of nutrients brought into the lakes after the Rodeo-Chediski fire of 2002. Unlike other algae, Cylindrospermopsis does not form patches or scum on the surface, but rather forms in clumps or bands two to six feet below the surface. It generally forms in slow moving or still water and will cause the water to appear green-tinged or foamy.

For more information on the status of sampling or the fish kills contact:

Michael Murphy
Arizona Department of Health Services
(602) 542-1094

Marc Dahlberg
Arizona Game & Fish Department
(602) 789-3260

Frequently Asked Questions are also available.

Back to the top of the page


ADEQ Director Owens Extends Solid Waste Exemption to Help Communities Recovering from Aspen Fire

PHOENIX (June 10, 2004) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens today granted an extension through Dec. 31, 2004 to the exemption to the state's solid waste disposal laws that will allow residents in Pima County to bury trees and woody vegetation burned or damaged by the Aspen Fire without obtaining permits or other approvals from the department.

Under normal circumstances, trees not reused productively would be categorized as solid waste, requiring residents to haul them to a landfill and pay tipping fees for disposal.

"The Aspen Fire was a great tragedy," Owens said. "Governor Napolitano and I are committed to assisting Pima County and the residents of Mount Lemmon in their recovery efforts."

Owens had granted the exemption last year in the aftermath of the Aspen Fire. The exemption was to expire on July 1, 2004, but Pima County officials recently asked Owens to extend the exemption through December because of the amount of burned timber and vegetation still remaining to be removed from Mount Lemmon.

Back to the top of the page


ADEQ Completes Cleanup of Nogales Wash

PHOENIX (June 8, 2004) ADEQ Director Steve Owens announced today that officials have returned from work at the Nogales wash, site of a significant sanitary sewer overflow that entered the wash from Mexico. ADEQ officials worked with the City of Nogales to clean and disinfect the spill.

Owens described the overflow as an unfortunate accident, but said the incident illustrates that more work needs to be done in upgrading the wastewater infrastructure in Sonora.

"This is one of the worst overflows we have seen, particularly in this region of the state," Owens said."This incident focuses attention on the sanitary sewer needs on the Mexican side of the border, and we will continue to work with our state, federal and international partners to address those issues."

Owens said ADEQ was notified of the incident by city officials on June 3, and sent members of its emergency response team to begin cleanup efforts. Cleanup crews worked through the weekend to remove sludge and disinfect portions of the wash with hypochlorite tablets. Crews completed work on June 5.

Initial estimates of the overflow range from 12 million to 30 million gallons, based on average flow during the 12 days sewage ran into the wash.

ADEQ officials removed and estimated 210 tons of sludge from the concrete-lined portion of the wash, and added approximately 600 pounds of chlorine to other portions of the wash to disinfect and help control odor. ADEQ also posted public health notices along the wash warning residents to avoid contact with the water.

Back to the top of the page


Phoenix Site Added to State Superfund Registry

PHOENIX (June 2, 2004) Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens today announced the addition of a 2-mile area near 56th Street and Earll Drive in east Phoenix to the state's priority list of sites for assessment and cleanup of contaminated soil and groundwater.

The site, which was proposed for listing in January, becomes the first addition to the Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund (WQARF) registry in five years. The WQARF fund provides resources for the study, monitoring and cleanup of contaminated sites.

"The surrounding community has been aware of this site for some time, but putting the site on the WQARF registry will help make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect the surrounding environment," Owens said.

The site is a tract of land where a Motorola industrial plant was located from 1950 to the early 1980s. The plant had been used for electronics assembly at various times throughout its history, and it is during those periods that chemical solvents and metals were disposed of improperly. Motorola officials have been remediating the site on a voluntary basis, but the addition of the area to the registry ensures proper state oversight, Owens said.

The Arizona Legislature created the state cleanup fund in 1986 and amended the law 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. The program currently has 33 sites on the WQARF Registry. The addition of this new site brings the total number to 34.

Back to the top of the page


ADEQ Issues High Pollution Advisory for Phoenix Metropolitan Area

PHOENIX (June 1, 2004) The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has issued a High Pollution Advisory for Wednesday, June 2, due to forecasted ground-level ozone concentrations expected to exceed air quality standards. The advisory is based on forecasts which indicate a combination of near record high daytime temperatures, relatively light winds and continued ozone import from southern California. This is the first ozone-based High Pollution Advisory issued in 2004.

ADEQ recommends that children and adults with respiratory problems avoid outdoor activities on Wednesday and suggests that general public limit outdoor activity throughout the day.

Employers participating in the Valley's Trip Reduction Program should implement their pollution reduction action plans and all Valley motorists should try to reduce ozone-producing emissions by taking the following steps:

  • Car pool, use mass transit, walk, bicycle, telecommute, and/or reduce driving.
  • Fill gasoline tanks after dark, during the cooler evening hours.
  • Avoid using gas-powered lawn or gardening equipment.

"The increasing temperatures combined with light winds have unfortunately created circumstances for high levels of ozone pollution," ADEQ Director Steve Owens said. "We are strongly urging motorists to reduce driving and use alternative modes of transportation when possible and take other steps to help reduce emissions that can lead to ozone production."

Ground-level ozone pollution is caused by the interaction of sunlight with the many pollutants generated by automobiles, gasoline-powered lawn equipment and other sources.

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

ADEQ has instituted two levels of air quality notification for Valley residents. An Ozone Health Watch alerts sensitive populations (i.e. senior citizens, children, people with respiratory illnesses) that ground-level ozone is expected to approach unhealthy levels and to consider reducing or rescheduling prolonged activity or heavy exertion outdoors, particularly during afternoon hours when ozone concentrations are typically at their highest. ADEQ issues a High Pollution Advisory for ozone when ozone concentrations are expected to exceed air quality standards. When a High Pollution Advisory is issued, participating Valley businesses are directed to implement employee trip reduction measures and all Valley motorists are encouraged to curb ozone production in the Valley by carpooling, utilizing public transportation and telecommuting when possible.

Back to the top of the page


Back