The Section 11 Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) continues to be a very high priority for EPCOR’s management direction. We’re committed to transparent communications with customers on the actions we’re taking to improve conditions at the facility.
The challenge: In a nutshell, the Section 11 plant is not processing and treating wastewater as it was designed to do. There are many reasons for this including years of deferred maintenance, non-working mechanical parts and the amount of wastewater coming into the plant.
As a result, some customers are experiencing intermittent odor issues and have been for several years. The Section 11 plant has not been meet permitting requirements for water and air quality for many years and EPCOR is working to address these compliance issues.
In short, because of a lack of maintenance over many years and because the amount of wastewater flowing to this facility exceeds the capacity it was built for, it is negatively impacting the plant’s ability to function properly. To address this, EPCOR has put emergency measures in place to reduce the amount of wastewater entering the Section 11 plant.
The long-term solution: The long-term solution to Section 11 is to decommission the plant and replace it with a new one. The new facility, the Copper Basin WWTP, is in the planning phase with an estimated cost of $35 million. Working out the long-term legal, regulatory, and capital processes takes time, and we appreciate customers’ patience. Since taking over as interim manager, the Section 11 plant has remained one of many priorities for EPCOR’s operations, engineering, water quality and environmental compliance experts – the size of this capital project requires owner involvement and ACC staff approval.
What we’re already doing: Most recently, EPCOR secured permission from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) for an above-ground, emergency wastewater pipeline that is now redirecting over 220,000 gallons per day of wastewater from Section 11 to the Anthem Wastewater Reclamation Plant. Please note that while the pipeline meets all safety regulations for this type of structure, we request that the public not approach it. You can learn more about the exact location of the pipeline on www.johnsonutilities.com.
We’re also repairing or replacing individual parts of the Section 11 infrastructure that have been inoperable for many years so the facility as a whole can operate as it was designed to do. For example, we’re repairing the failed weir effluent structures that will allow proper flow of wastewater through the plant. We’re cleaning and repairing distribution lines and have re-lined Treatment Basin #2. Through these and other efforts, we are seeing improvements in the wastewater treatment process at Section 11.
Finally, we’re making progress on odor control and monitoring. We report odor monitoring results every week to the Pinal County Air Quality Control District and odor mitigation efforts to date include sealing up headworks, regulating water levels, chemical additions to the treatment process, increasing contact time with aerators, and more.
Some of these actions to remedy odor issues may result in minor periodic odor emissions. We understand that issues with odor are unpleasant and appreciate customers’ patience as we address them.
Our work over the last seven months to ensure adequate water supplies for this summer is paying off. Through a combination of strategies to increase sources of clean water, we expect supplies to meet demand and that customers will not see a repeat of last summer’s water shortages.
As of the end of May, the San Tan Well #1 is up and running and Magma Well #1 is expected to be running by mid-June. Each well brings an extra 600 gallons per minute (gpm) into the system. An additional power upgrade is in the works that will increase the amount of water San Tan Well #1 can produce to 1,100 gpm – that work is expected to take another 60 days.
We’re also evaluating the Crestfield 2, Ellsworth and McRae wells, and a comprehensive groundwater supply study is in the works to evaluate wells within and outside the existing system for potential new sources of water.
Improved Water Quality and Water Pressure
Our team is making headway installing technologies to improve water quality at various locations. The reverse osmosis (RO) system at Morning Sun Farms started operating in early May, and the new ion exchange (IX) system at the Main Yard started full operation in early June. Another new RO unit is also up and running at Johnson Ranch Well #4 to aid with blending at the Main Yard. It will remain in operation until the IX treatment system is expanded.
We’ve installed a flow meter along with a pressure reducing valve (PRV) from the Magma and Ricky wells, resulting in improvements in water pressure in the Magma and Magic Ranch areas.
EPCOR Receives Approval to Lift New Meter Restriction in Region 4
We’re very pleased to announce that the restriction on new service connections has been removed for Region 4 of the Johnson service territory, which includes the Wild Horse, Crestfield and Magic Ranch areas. On May 21, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) approved our recommendation. The restriction is still in place for Regions 1 and 2 of the Johnson water system, and we’ll continue to update customers, the development community and the public on as we continue to make more progress.
Future Rate Case Update
At the ACC’s May 21 Open Meeting the commission also issued a new decision regarding a rate case for Johnson Utilities. You may remember that the rate case originally filed by Johnson Utilities on December 29, 2017, was withdrawn in March 2019.
Instead, the ACC has ordered EPCOR to file, as the interim manager for Johnson Utilities, a new rate case by the end of 2019, using a test year that shows what it cost to provide your service no later than from September 1, 2018 to August 31, 2019. This decision replaces the ACC’s decision in March requiring Johnson Utilities, through EPCOR, to file a new full rate case application before May 1, 2020. EPCOR’s rates, regulatory and financial experts will be focused on developing this application this fall. Once the application is ready for the ACC’s review, all customers will receive information and invitations to open houses where they can learn more.
EPCOR is recruiting for several open positions in different operational areas at Johnson Utilities. For information on these openings and how to apply, please visit the Employment page on the Johnson Utilities website.
How to Contact Epcor
24/7 Bill Payment: 1-844-567-2502
Customer service & billing inquiries: 480-987-9870
Emergencies: 480-987-9870 (press 6) or 480-887-0648