December 10, 2018

As Interim Manager of Johnson Utilities, EPCOR is working hard to address issues that matter most to customers. We’re providing regular updates here and on on improvements underway.

Help Us Protect Your Wastewater System

The holidays are here, and there’s a good chance you’re cooking more than usual or entertaining houseguests. Now is a smart time to review tips for preventing drain clogs and sewer backups, many of which can start at home.

Avoid putting fats, oils, and grease (FOG) down your sink or garbage disposal. Once inside your system, these materials can easily solidify and clog pipes.


Skip flushing anything other than bath tissue down the toilet. This includes paper towels, feminine supplies, baby wipes, dental floss, etc. Even products marked “flushable” can cause major backups requiring expensive repairs.

What We’re Doing to Clean and Maintain Your Wastewater System

Sewer backups are a priority and we work immediately to address issues when a customer calls. But we’re also laser focused on getting to the root of the problem and putting long-term solutions in place. We’re fixing valves that are broken or not in the correct position and we’re actively cleaning out neighborhood mains where grease and other debris, like flushable wipes and towels, have blocked pipes.

Wastewater systems are gravity fed and need a little help from lift stations to move things along when elevation changes or a lot of waste is flowing through the pipe. In some areas, too many pipes send waste to one lift station. To prevent overflows, we added additional measures to keep the pumps working. This is especially important when we’re cooking holiday meals and entertaining friends and family.

What about Section 11? More wastewater is being sent to the Section 11 wastewater treatment plant than it can handle, so we’re focused on short-term solutions to relieve the strain, like diverting some flow to other treatment facilities and making temporary changes that could increase the plant’s efficiency. The long-term solution continues to be replacing Section 11 with a new, mechanical treatment facility.

The Hunt Highway Widening Project and Our Role

There’s lots of activity happening along Hunt Highway where the County is widening this important stretch of transportation infrastructure. We’re doing our part to help, by moving the existing sewer main so that it is buried in the right location and deep enough to protect it. A temporary pipeline was installed along the road to make sure the project didn’t interrupt your service while the permanent line was being relocated. Our work on the sewer line relocation should be complete by the end of the year.

How We’re Managing New Meter Requests

A recent analysis of Johnson Utilities’ infrastructure found that the system needs substantial improvements before it can adequately meet current and future building development in the service territory. For this reason, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) voted on November 7 to temporarily limit the number of water and wastewater hookups granted to developers to 28 per month. The limit is sometimes being referred to as a “partial moratorium”, or a “stay”.

Different areas within the Johnson Utilities system have different water and sewer capacities, and the ACC order specifically directs how new meter requests should be treated, depending on where the site requested is located. The area served by the Section 11 wastewater plant, for example, cannot accommodate new sewer hookups until an infrastructure solution is in place, while this same area (area #3) has water infrastructure that is able to accommodate new growth.

Since the ACC decision that gave direction on how new meter requests should be treated, we’ve worked directly with each homebuilder to ensure that the ACC’s directions on new meter hookups are followed. We carefully review every new meter request and have developed an application process and a set of criteria, including geographic verification by the developer that the site requested falls within an area approved by the November 7 ACC order, that each new meter applicant must complete before we approved and proceed with any new meter hookup.

EPCOR will continue working on improvements and will request areas to be taken off the moratorium as sufficient infrastructure is put in place. We expect the ACC to revisit the issue again in six months – roughly May 2019. In the meantime, we’re adhering closely to the limited number of new meters allowed per month.

Keeping Your Water Safe

Certain Johnson Utilities drinking water (potable) wells have been unavailable for use, due to high nitrate levels. These wells are important and we’ve been working on solutions that will bring them back into service, ensuring your water is safe and it’s there in time for the hot summer months.

Nitrate treatment: We’re designing an Ion Exchange unit for Johnson Ranch wells #4 and #5, which will remove nitrates from the water. We expect this solution to be in service by April 2019. We’re developing a similar solution for Morning Suns Farm.

RO systems: We’re also redeploying two trailer-mounted RO systems, which will allow high-nitrate wells to be used and blended as necessary until a permanent solution can be established. 

Water Pressure Progress

Making Progress: We’re installing VFD motor controllers, air relief valves where none previously existed, and conducting “valve sweeps” to verify that valves controlling the flow of water are operating correctly. We also continue to use pressure loggers to get to more detail on water-flow patterns and issues – this data helps us make immediate operating system adjustments in place. The longer-term solution continues to include establishing “pressure zones” to manage water pressure according to consumer demand – this will be part of the longer-term capital plan.

Remember: If you have an issue, call customer service at 480-987-9870. We need as much information as possible to put pressure loggers in the right locations, record the details for a week or two, and better pinpoint the issue and put a solution in place.

Discussions Continue on a Possible Interconnect with Queen Creek

Summer isn’t that far away, and that’s when demand for water hits a high point. We continue to work with the Town of Queen Creek on a possible interconnect that would help meet the highest water demand days for next summer. Together we’ve agreed on a location where the two systems could be interconnected and how much water Queen Creek could send to the Johnson Utilities system if needed. There are still some details to be worked through, and we appreciate the Town’s partnership.