Even only twelve days into the interim management, EPCOR has tackled a lot of items. This will not be a quick process, but the progress they have made is good to hear. At the September 11 ACC Open Meeting EPCOR representatives offered several updates of what has taken place, some of the problems they have seen, and highlighted a few items that they will look to address.

Update on 60-day assessment report:

EPCOR has completed site visits at 4 wastewater treatment plants which occurred on August 9th. They also did site visits at 11 lift stations on August 10th. 13 water plants and wells visits were done on the 14th. EPCOR visited 12 additional water sites on the 15th and 7 additional water site visits occurred on the 30th.

As a result, they are compiling critical findings and project lists and developing the necessary capital investments needed for those facilities.

They are in the process of developing budgets and schedules for any type of repairs, replacements corrections and new procedures that may be necessary

They have asked Johnson Utilities staff to provide responses to numerous data requests and they have been providing that information. They are in the process of analyzing that information. The data requests center around compliance history water quality, sanitary sewer overflows, well production data, storage capacity, and the system piping network.

They are working diligently in compiling mapping of Johnson Utilities systems for both water and wastewater. This is critical work, without the maps and understanding of the distribution network and how different facilities tie together makes it difficult to identify where all the potential problems are.

They have completed mapping of all the well sites, all wastewater plants, all of the collections systems, and begun analysis of the sanitary sewer overflows and mapping the location of those to better understand the cause of those. They are working in pipe sizes and connections in terms of the maps.

They are working on the analysis of the system capacity and demands. There is still a lot of work to be done on this. The analysis that has been performed on the public water system 11-128 has a shortage of firm water supply capacity of 1.3 million gallons a day. 

There are a number of water sources that exceed maximum contaminant level for nitrate on their own if they were operating independently. Right now they are being tied in and mixed with sources that have more acceptable levels of nitrates so the finished product does meet the maximum containment levels. But, when you marry a couple of sources together to blend out water quality problems you can affect firm capacity if you have a problem like a well failure, which could result in two sources being shut down as opposed to one.

They are looking into mitigation plans for sanitary sewer overflows. An SSO occurred in the Johnson Utilities system at the main yard beginning on Saturday, September 8th. They have been on site along with Johnson Utilities staff to stem the SSO, which appears to be under control as of September 11th. The problem seemed to have stemmed from a number of check valves were not operating or completely failed. Some of the pumps at the lift stations may be improperly sized and need to be corrected. But that will take time as they make their way through the analysis of the system.

On September 4th, Tuesday, EPCOR held an all-hands meeting with Johnson Utilities staff in San Tan Valley to explain to them what an interim management agreement is and what it means to the staff, and also establish that EPCOR’ has as minimum safety standards for worker conduct. 

Also, on the 4th, EPCOR had a staff of eight working alongside Johnson Utilities staff. This covered everything from water operations, wastewater, water distribution, customer service, billing and everything in between. The objective was when it comes to customer service, the first thing was to understand the process from when the meter is read until it is turned into a bill and paid by customers. That is an ongoing process.

EPCOR Staff has been working on accomplishing three major priorities:

  1. Compile a triage list of repairs, corrections, and procedures that need to be immediately in place to ensure providing service levels the customers expect
  2. Compile lists of repairs and replacements that need to take place in the next three to six months.
  3. Working with JU staff to identify any problems that they are experiencing that they can call to EPCOR’s attention and how EPCOR can help them solve those problems.

EPCOR is also evaluating the organizational structure of Johnson Utilities to ensure the organization is aligned to best deliver the service levels and reliability that the customers are expecting.

They are also evaluating the compensation structure of the Johnson Utility staff as they are experiencing over a 75% turnover rate and they want to stem that and get the right people in to do the job.

Every day EPCOR is finding new issues and are still trying to get their hands around the situation. EPCOR has also been providing developers with updates as to where they are in the process.

Current cash available from the five Johnson Utilities accounts and two Hunt Management accounts is over $24.5 million in the Johnson Utilities accounts and over $2 million in the Hunt Management accounts. EPCOR feels there is plenty of money to run the utility along with putting together a fairly robust capital plan to make improvements that this utility needs.

EPCOR expects to have their first report out by the end of September.