Unpermitted Discharge Of Treated Water From Pecan Water Reclamation Plant Into Queen Creek

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) issued a Water Quality Advisory on January 11, 2019 for the unpermitted discharge of recycled water from Johnson Utilities’ Pecan Water Reclamation Plant into Queen Creek in the San Tan Valley area. There is no impact to Johnson Utilities’ drinking water systems and there has NOT been a release of untreated sewage into the environment.

EPCOR notified ADEQ of a spill of treated recycled water on January 6, 2019 and an impending controlled release on January 7, 2019. ADEQ sent an inspector to the facility on Friday, January 11, 2019 to better assess the situation before the upcoming weekend. Upon arrival at the facility, an inspector observed an on-going release into Queen Creek and gathered water samples for testing. On January 15, 2019, EPCOR confirmed the release would continue intermittently with wet weather in the area. EPCOR estimates a total release of 11.75 million gallons as of the afternoon of January 15, 2019.

Preliminary results of the samples collected at the pipe discharging water into Queen Creek show it is meeting E. coli surface water quality standards for both full and partial body contact. Further results regarding nitrogen and other contaminants will be available within a week. E. coli is naturally occurring and most strains are not harmful to humans. Surface water quality standards allow a certain level of E. coli that would be expected from natural sources.

Recommended Actions:

  • Avoid contact with standing water in this area. Do not allow people or pets to drink this water. In the event of contact, thoroughly wash with soap and clean water as soon as possible.
  • Contact a medical professional if you have any questions or show symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea after coming in contact with the water.

This advisory is limited to the unpermitted discharge of recycled water into Queen Creek. ADEQ will continue to monitor the situation. Recycled water is typically used for non-potable applications, including for irrigation of golf courses and common areas within a community or in ponds at the facility to recharge the aquifer. The use of recycled water in a community is indicated by purple pipes and signage cautioning against contact with standing water. ADEQ confirmed with EPCOR samples taken in January 2019 inside the plant meet water quality standards for A+ effluent.

The unpermitted discharge is due to an exceedance of recharge capacity of the Pecan Water Reclamation Plant. The plant is located at 38539 N Gantzel Rd in San Tan Valley. To manage future flows, EPCOR is working to increase recycled water capacity for local irrigation districts and farmers. EPCOR was appointed by the Arizona Corporation Commission as the interim manager for Johnson Utilities in August 2018.

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