Newsroom: Press Release Archive: March 2005
  • March 29, 2005: ADEQ Director Owens Announces Grant for Student's Envirothon Contest
  • March 28, 2005: ADEQ Director Owens Cites Chemical Company for Acid Spill that Shut Down Part of Downtown Phoenix
  • March 22, 2005: EPA Approves Draft Air Quality Permit for Refinery
  • March 21, 2005: ADEQ Establishes UPCO File Repository in North Phoenix
  • March 21, 2005: ADEQ Director Owens Announces "Performance Track" Program to Encourage Environmental Stewardship by Companies
  • March 15, 2005: ADEQ Director Owens Says Phoenix Metro Area Meets Federal 1-Hour Ozone Standard
  • March 11, 2005: ADEQ Director Owens Announces Pilot Project to Test Emissions from Mexican Trucks
  • March 9, 2005: ADEQ to Study Groundwater in Arizona for Potential Contamination from PG& E Hexavalent Chromium Plume

ADEQ Director Owens Announces Grant for Student's Envirothon Contest

PHOENIX (March 29, 2005) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens today announced a $32,000 grant to the 2005 Envirothon, a statewide contest that challenges teams of high school students to solve natural resource problems and develop solutions to environmental issues.

On April 1, 17 teams consisting of five students and one coach will travel to Triangle Y Ranch in Oracle to compete for the state Envirothon title. While on the two-day retreat, students will perform hands-on environmental experiments and will be presented with environmental problems associated with this year's Envirothon theme, "Protecting Cultural Landscapes." After investigating each issue, the teams take written tests and present their findings to a panel of judges.

"We are pleased to support great educational programs such as Envirothon for Arizona's students," ADEQ Director Steve Owens said. "We understand the value that a unique, hands-on educational experience gives these students."

The winning team receives an all expense paid trip to the North American Canon Envirothon competition to be held this summer in Springfield, Missouri. The top three teams at the North American competition will receive scholarships ranging from $1000-$3000.

The $32,000 grant is funded with federal dollars provided to ADEQ under the Clean Water Act.

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ADEQ Director Owens Cites Chemical Company for Acid Spill that Shut Down Part of Downtown Phoenix

PHOENIX (March 28, 2005) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens announced today that ADEQ has issued a Notice of Violation to LA Chemical, the company responsible for last month's spill of nearly 300 gallons of hydrofluorosilicic acid that shut down part of downtown Phoenix for several hours on February 4 and sent several people to the hospital for treatment.

The spill occurred when a container of hydrofluorosilicic acid leaked inside a semi-truck operated by LA Chemical that was traveling through downtown Phoenix. The acid left a trail on city streets starting at 7th Ave. and Grant Ave. and continuing north over the 7th Ave. Bridge to Monroe St. The truck stopped near 5th Ave. and Madison after the leak was discovered.

Hydrofluorosilicic acid is harmful by ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact. Because of the risk from the spill, the Phoenix Fire and Police Departments closed off the affected area and several surrounding blocks in downtown Phoenix for nearly 12 hours until approximately 10 p.m. to reduce the possibility of exposure and allow for clean-up of the acid. Sixteen people plus the driver were treated at local hospitals for possible exposure to the acid.

"Any spill of dangerous acid is extremely serious," Owens said. "This situation was especially unacceptable because part of downtown Phoenix had to be shut down to deal with it and the health and safety of a number of people were put at risk."

The NOV cites the company for violating the state's hazardous waste law. The company faces a statutory penalty of up to $25,000 for the violation.

The NOV gives the company 15 days to explain why and how the container of acid failed and provide information to ADEQ on the steps the company took to ensure that the acid was packaged properly for shipment.

"We intend to hold the company accountable for violating the law, and we want to find out exactly what happened and why," Owens said.

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EPA Approves Draft Air Quality Permit for Refinery

PHOENIX (March 22, 2005) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens announced today that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the draft air quality permit written by ADEQ for Arizona Clean Fuels' proposed refinery in Yuma County.

The EPA had 45 days to review the draft permit sent to them in February. EPA suggested minor procedural and technical revisions to the permit, which ADEQ has agreed to make. ADEQ anticipates issuing the final permit within the next two weeks.

"As we expected, EPA had no real issues with the permit we drafted," Owens said. "This is the toughest air quality permit ever proposed for a refinery."

The refinery would be located on approximately 1,450 acres near Tacna and could produce approximately 150,000 barrels per day of motor fuels, including approximately 85,000 barrels per day of motor gasoline, 35,000 barrels per day of diesel fuel and 30,000 barrels per day of jet fuel.

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ADEQ Establishes UPCO File Repository in North Phoenix

PHOENIX (March 21, 2005) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens announced today that ADEQ has established a file repository in a north Phoenix library that contains public files, data and information relating to the Universal Propulsion Company (UPCO) facility in north Phoenix.

Owens directed that the repository be established in response to a request from community members. The repository is located at the Juniper Library, 1825 W. Union Hills Drive in Phoenix, and files in the repository are available for public review and access during regular library hours. The repository will be regularly updated and maintained by ADEQ, and it includes public documents that can be viewed at ADEQ.

"We established this repository so that residents in the area have easy, convenient access to documents and information about the UPCO facility," Owens said. "We want to do everything we can to help ensure that the people who live near the UPCO facility have the information they need to stay informed about what's happening there."

Last October ADEQ and UPCO entered into two enforceable Consent Orders. One requires the company to investigate and clean up perchlorate contamination at the north Phoenix facility. The other prohibits future open burnings at the site. Owens said that the repository will contain information about the status of UPCO's clean-up effort as well as other activities at the facility.

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ADEQ Director Owens Announces "Performance Track" Program to Encourage Environmental Stewardship by Companies

PHOENIX (March 21, 2005) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens announced today that ADEQ is launching the Arizona Performance Track, a program to encourage and reward businesses that are good environmental stewards.

"The Performance Track program is a voluntary partnership between ADEQ, the air quality departments of Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal counties and businesses that recognizes and rewards environmental leadership," Owens said. "The Performance Track Program is designed to encourage companies to go above and beyond the minimum requirements of the law."

Owens said that to be eligible to participate in the program, a company must, among other things:

  • Have a history of compliance, including no criminal violations in the previous five years and no significant civil violations in the past three years.
  • Have a comprehensive environmental management system and conduct inspections according to an ADEQ-approved checklist.
  • Have a pollution prevention program, engage in community outreach, commit to purchase products and services with low environmental impacts and provide preferred-vendor status to other Performance Track members.

Owens said that companies participating in the Arizona Performance Track program will receive benefits in recognition of their commitment to environmental protection. Among the incentives for participation: reduced inspection frequency, advance notice before an NOC (Notice of Opportunity to Correct) or NOV (Notice of Violation) is issued, flexibility of permit conditions, consolidation and reduction of reporting requirements, multi-media inspections and permitting, annual meetings with ADEQ executives, participation in pilot projects and the development of future incentives and recognition on ADEQ's Web site.

"The program is a win-win for ADEQ, the regulated community, and the people of Arizona," Owens stated. "It is based on the premise that government should complement existing regulatory programs with new tools and strategies that not only protect our families and the environment, but also provide incentives for companies that want to do the right thing."

"We especially encourage small businesses to take advantage of this innovative program, as it can be of significant benefit to them," said Bob Kard, the newly appointed Director of the Maricopa County Air Quality Department.

Arizona's Performance Track is based on the federal Environmental Protection Agency's National Environmental Performance Track, which started in June 2000 and includes more than 350 companies in 46 states and Puerto Rico. Five Arizona companies are current members of EPA's version of Performance Track: the Grand Canyon National Park, Honeywell, Motorola, Xanterra Parks & Resorts at Grand Canyon National Park and Xanterra South Rim, and Verkamps, Inc.

Arizona's program was shaped with input from the Arizona Environmental Strategic Alliance, which includes several of Arizona's major corporations and other members of the regulated community.

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ADEQ Director Owens Says Phoenix Metro Area Meets Federal 1-Hour Ozone Standard

PHOENIX (March 15, 2005) -- ADEQ Director Steve Owens today announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to officially redesignate the Phoenix metropolitan area as having met the federal 1-hour ozone health standard.

Despite unprecedented growth and development, the Phoenix area has not violated the 1-hour ozone standard during the previous eight years, Owens said. The proposed "attainment" designation recognizes the efforts being made to improve air quality in the Valley.

"This is great news for everyone in the Valley," ADEQ Director Owens said. "The steps we have been taking to cut down on the emissions that contribute to the formation of ozone clearly are working."

Owens noted that the Napolitano administration has been working aggressively to have EPA redesignate areas in Arizona as being in attainment with federal health standards. The ozone attainment designation follows the recent announcement that the Phoenix metro area has attained the federal health standard for carbon monoxide.

Owens added that the Phoenix metro area now faces the challenge of coming into attainment for the new 8-hour ozone standard. The deadline for compliance with the federal health standard for 8-hour ozone is 2009.

The proposed redesignation is finalized after a 30-day comment period and publication in the Federal Register.

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ADEQ Director Owens Announces Pilot Project to Test Emissions from Mexican Trucks

PHOENIX (March 11, 2005) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens announced that ADEQ is launching a pilot project today to determine baseline tailpipe emissions from Mexican trucks entering the United States at the Mariposa-Nogales port of entry.

The pilot project, which is being funded with a $200,000 grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, will begin today and last for three weeks. One of the major goals of the project is to acquire data on emission levels of the commercial truck fleets crossing the U.S.-Mexico border during the three week study period. ADEQ will then be able to determine how much pollution in the area has increased whenever larger numbers of Mexican trucks are allowed to cross the border into Arizona in the future.

"While we have been working with Mexico to reduce pollutants by doing things such as retrofitting older diesel engines to burn the cleaner, ultra-low sulfur diesel, we are very concerned that the anticipated increase in Mexican commercial truck traffic entering through Nogales could dramatically increase pollution along the border," Owens said. "If older, dirtier trucks are going to be allowed to come into Arizona, we need to have adequate data to deal with the air quality problems they may bring with them."

The project will employ technology known as remote sensing, which casts a narrow beam of ultraviolet light across a roadway to instantaneously measure tailpipe emissions as a vehicle crosses the beam's path. The beam will capture data on carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and fine particulate matter being emitted from Mexican trucks.

More than 250,000 trucks enter the U.S. through the Mariposa-Nogales port of entry annually. That figure is expected to significantly increase as NAFTA is fully implemented in the coming years.

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ADEQ to Study Groundwater in Arizona for Potential Contamination from PG&E Hexavalent Chromium Plume

PHOENIX (March 9, 2005) -- Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens announced today that ADEQ will conduct a study to determine whether groundwater in Arizona has been contaminated by a plume of hexavalent chromium coming from the Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Natural Gas Compressor Station near Needles, California.

Owens said that PG&E will pay for the study under an agreement signed by the company with ADEQ. The study, which is expected to cost more than $350,000, will examine the groundwater flow on the Arizona side of the Colorado River to determine whether the hexavalent chromium plume has migrated under the riverbed and contaminated water supplies in Arizona. The study also will involve sampling drinking water wells in the communities of Topock and Golden Shores, Arizona.

"We want to ensure that the Colorado River and Arizona's precious groundwater resources are protected," Owens said. "We intend to determine whether the PG&E plume has contaminated Arizona's groundwater."

Recent results from a new monitoring well in California show that the hexavalent chromium plume from the PG&E station has moved to within at least 60 feet of the Colorado River and may potentially extend beneath the river.

Last September, in a letter sent to the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (CRWQCB), Owens expressed his concern that the plume not only could contaminate the Colorado River, but could also contaminate groundwater in Arizona. "I am particularly troubled that the plume of hexavalent chromium may have already moved beneath the Colorado River and may now be contaminating Arizona's groundwater," Owens wrote. The recent results heighten this concern, Owens said.

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