Looking Ahead to Summer Water Needs

The warm weather will be here before we know it, and the EPCOR team is focused on incremental solutions that will add up to increased capacity to meet higher water demand this summer.

Last fall, EPCOR’s assessment of the Johnson water supply system located a capacity deficit in densely populated portions of the service area near Queen Creek. We’ve identified solutions that will bring in additional water supply capacity, and we’re also in active conversations with the Town of Queen Creek to possibly construct an interconnection between the Johnson and Queen Creek water systems. We look forward to seeing the Town’s response to our proposed letter of intent.

We’re also pressing ahead on efforts to bring back into service those drinking water (potable) wells that have been out of commission due to high nitrate levels. Throughout December and January, the team made progress on the design, location, and installation of ion exchange (IX) technology that will remove nitrates from water at these wells. Reverse osmosis (RO) is another technology for removing nitrates from water, and we’ve set up a temporary RO unit to treat well water at Johnson’s Morning Sun Farms plant as needed in the coming months.

SanTan Well #1 and Your Water Supply

SanTan Well #1 is one of the drinking water wells we’re working to bring online. It’s an existing, but currently unused, resource in the Johnson Utilities system. This is a source of quality water that can be made operational relatively quickly, and we are moving forward with the access agreements and other tasks needed to bring this well online.

The first part of the process is to test the water in the well to make sure it meets drinking water requirements. Our team began that task on Monday, January 21, and you’ll see work happening at the site along Hunt Highway. Testing the pump requires releasing some water into an adjacent greenbelt/stormwater retention area.

If the tests go well, we’ll prepare to bring the well online and begin serving the community by March as water usage starts to pick up again for summer.

Pecan Treated Effluent Release

The Johnson Utilities Pecan treatment plant collects and treats wastewater to an A+ effluent standard fully compliant with public health requirements for recycled water – a common source of irrigation for golf courses, parks, farms, and similar uses. Once the treatment process is completed, the treated effluent (recycled water) is delivered to users or recharged using onsite recharge and basins. The Pecan wastewater treatment headworks, the first stage of the treatment process, is in critical need of infrastructure improvements and is scheduled to begin design this year.

Due to the recent rainy weather, more than 15 million gallons of fully treated effluent had to be released into the Queen Creek wash between January 9 and 15. Before the water was released, samples were taken to ensure that it met A+ treated effluent standards.

EPCOR will be continuing the controlled release of recycled water from the Pecan treatment plant to the Queen Creek wash as long as rainy weather pushes the storage basins to capacity.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has confirmed that there has been no threat to the Johnson Utilities drinking water supply, and no untreated wastewater has been released.

Until the capacity issue is resolved – and rainy weather subsides – we will continue to use this safe and effective means of discharging excess effluent as needed.

Enhancing Operations

As part of EPCOR’s ongoing efforts to improve wastewater operations, we’ve identified a need for more supervisory staff in wastewater collections and wastewater treatment operations. Two of these positions have been filled, and active recruitment is underway for three more.

Additionally, EPCOR is working with the Johnson Utilities team to enhance operational structure and efficiency, starting with the most pressing concerns first. In recent weeks we’ve focused on optimizing accounting procedures as well as fair pay, vacation time, and working conditions for employees – one more way we’re working to boost the quality of the Johnson organization as a whole.

Section 11 Plant

Replacing the Section 11 wastewater treatment facility is a top priority in EPCOR’s three-year capital expansion plan, recently submitted to the Arizona Corporation Commission. Design and permitting for the plant is expected to begin in 2019 to bring the new plant online in 2021.

In the interim, we’re continuing to address immediate needs at the Section 11 facility. Efforts are underway to divert flow away from the plant, and we’re exploring ways of optimizing treatment onsite in the short term. Today the Section 11 plant is closer to operating standards for the interim period while a replacement plant is being constructed. This represents good progress on an important aspect of EPCOR’s work with Johnson Utilities.

An Update on Sanitary Sewer Overflows

Two sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) occurred on December 22 and 23. These incidents were small and at no time was there a threat to human health or the environment. EPCOR reported these incidents to ADEQ promptly, and we’ve installed alarm systems to immediately notify the operations team when a lift station is at capacity or not working correctly.

It’s probably no coincidence that the SSOs occurred around the holidays when people often use more water, cook more, and generally put added strain on their drains and pipes. Customers can do a lot to prevent sewer overflows. Please remember not to put any fats, oils or grease (“FOG”) down your sink drains, and never flush any products other than toilet paper.