EPCOR Submits Their System Evaluation Report To The ACC

On October 10, 2018, EPCOR submitted their evalution report to the ACC. The follow is taken directly from the report. The full report can be downloaded at the end of the article.

The water facilities are lacking the supply and treatment necessary to meet maximum day demands with respect to water flow and pressure. The wastewater system facilities require attention to safety, corrosion control, odor control, and process performance. The water reclamation plants are not properly permitted for effluent discharge and disposal. The Section 11 WRP is a lagoon plant that has been deficient with regard to effluent quality and hydraulic capacity. The wastewater collection system is comprised of a relatively large number of lift stations that lack redundancy, proper monitoring and control.

These deficiencies are a major obstacle toward current and future growth anticipated in the service area. The Utility cannot support such growth without major improvements to the Utility’s water and wastewater infrastructure. This led the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) to appoint EPCOR as Interim Manager of Johnson

Utilities. EPCOR agreed with the ACC that it would initiate and conduct an assessment and analysis of JU facilities and operations records to determine the existing state of the utility company’s facilities and the work necessary to improve the overall system.In the days that followed the Interim Manager appointment, EPCOR staff experienced a sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) that began on September 8, 2018 at the Main Yard lift station along Hunt Highway. The lift station pumps failed and the use of pumper trucks was required 24/7 to continuously haul wastewater directly to one of the treatment facilities to avoid a significant spill. The pumps in the lift station were found to be improperly sized and the seven mile long force main was found to be constructed without any operable air/vacuum valves, which should be included as standard engineering practice. The lift station was restored to functional, operating service with an above ground force main bypass on October 4th, 4 weeks after the initial failure. A second SSO occurred at Circle Cross 2 Lift Station on September 24, 2018 as a result of a crack at a location where the forcemain was repaired previously. No restraints were installed on the prior force main repair. The force main was repaired and the lift station was restored to service by end of day.

The JU management team had co-located a herd of goats at the Anthem WRP to function as weed control. The free-range goats mount their hooves on top of operator vehicles, generators, and other various equipment and leave waste across the property. This arrangement is inconsistent with operational compliance requirements to deliver class A+ effluent.

In the water system, EPCOR operators identified that all booster stations lack pressure gauges needed to determine if they are operating properly or as designed. Pumps have been discovered to be unbalanced, cavitating, and dead-heading. Numerous pumps had been scavenged from other sites and were not bolted down or leveled upon reinstallation. Several chlorine disinfection sites were improperly configured and/or maintained and flagged as hazards that present an immediate health and safety risk to employees. Additional safety protocols have been implemented until permanent improvements can be made. EPCOR staff also discovered that the 1 MG San Tan Water Storage Tank and an adjacent booster station was not in service.

EPCOR has been compiling data from available as-built plans, AutoCAD files, operational sketches, and google earth files to build a system of record for infrastructure system analysis and orientation. No electronic or paper system map books are currently available for the JU systems. Asset types such as hydrants, valves, manholes, cleanouts, service laterals, and zone boundaries are not available and will need to be field located and added to the data sets in order to support day-to-day operations and to develop preventative maintenance programs. Valve status (open or closed) is not verified or documented. During a targeted valve sweep in a low pressure area, EPCOR staff found five closed valves that should normally be open. Valves were restored to the open position.

EPCOR’s experiences and investigation in the first 30 days as Interim Manager, as appointed by the Acc, have confirmed that the Johnson Utilities systems are poorly performing and there is high risk of operational failure, environmental impacts, and service interruptions to existing customers

Firm supply capacity is defined as the system capacity with the largest or most impactful unit out of service. Per the Water Distribution System Handbook (AW W A 2000), public water systems should have standby capabilities to avoid supply deficiencies in the case of equipment malfunction or maintenance. The existing system supply was evaluated for firm capacity by region and addressed production (wells) and treatment only. The analysis addressed existing conditions based on 2017 data and additional committed demands based on LXAs executed by JU and the system is clearly overcommitted at this time.

Water System – Facility Inspections
Physical inspections of above ground water system facilities were conducted August 14, 15, and 30, 2018 to identify and address safety, regulatory compliance, system reliability, and redundancy issues/concerns. Issues found ranged from minor site drainage, fencing, and lighting issues to more severe safety hazards including

exposed electrical wires, control panel with inadequate door and locking mechanisms, chlorine system safety and reliability issues, and lack of standby power. The systems also lack SCADA communication between wells, tanks, and booster pump stations which resulted in frequent tank overflow and chronic low pressures in the distribution system.

Water Reclamation Plants (WRP)
The f our (4) W RP’s are permitted under the ADEQ Aquif er Protection Permit (APP) program. Eff luent from the WRP’s is used for golf course and farm irrigation and onsite recharge. None of the WRP’s have an Arizona Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (AZPDES) permit. Their capacities and corresponding observed f lows are tabulated in Table 5. As required by ADEQ, if the current used capacity is greater than 80% of the constructed capacity, expansion planning should be initiated. This is the case for Pecan WRP which is approaching this criterion with respect to hydraulic capacity.

Section 11 WRP is a lagoon plant with questionable capacity that cannot be determined at this point since the plant has been consistently producing non-compliant effluent and is deficient with regard to lagoon freeboard.

Effluent management and disposal for all four plants has been unreliable which makes the need for discharge permits essential. The capacity for each plant is established based on treatment units and availability of effluent discharge.

Facility Inspections – Water Reclamation Plants
Site visits were conducted August 9, 2018 to inspect each facility. The findings revealed major deficiencies related to safety, structural integrity, corrosion, electrical systems, regulatory compliance, odor control, and lack of redundancy. The major improvements necessary at each WRP include:

  • Discharge Permits (AZPDES) Obtain discharge permits for all WRP’s. These permits are critical to determine the capacity available to support future growth.
  • Effluent Disposal – Confirm capacity of existing effluent disposal facilities and expand/upgrade as needed.
  • Section 11 WRP Replacement/Relocation & Expansion – Section 11 WRP does not meet Best Available Demonstrated Control Technologies, f reeboard requirements, and nitrogen limits. This plant should be replaced with a mechanical plant.
  • Pecan WRP & San Tan WRP – Headworks Replacement – The headworks facilities are showing signs of severe deterioration. Concerns include structural integrity of structural components, safe access to equipment and compliance with NFPA 820.
  • Pecan, San Tan, and Anthem WRP’s – Odor and Corrosion Control – Plantwide – This will address the lack of proper ventilation which will help in corrosion protection and slowdown structural degradation of the facility and provide adequate odor control.
  • Anthem WRP – The Anthem WRP is currently using goats for weed control at the recharge basins covered by solar panels. Alternative methods for weed control should be evaluated to avoid safety and contamination issues. Health hazards associated with exposure to goat excretions is also a concern.

Johnson Utilities water and wastewater systems and infrastructure have been constructed in response to residential and commercial development projects without a comprehensive and master planned approach. The Utility has been the subject of various violations including NOC’s, NOV’s, CO’s, and customer complaints associated with compromised water quality, system pressures, odors, and sewer overflows.

The water facilities are lacking the supply and treatment needed to meet the maximum day demands. The pumping facilities are not able to provide the required system pressures during high demand periods. The wastewater system relies on four (4) water reclamation plants that are not properly permitted for effluent disposal and discharge. The facilities also require attention to safety, corrosion control, odor control, and process performance. Section 11 WRP is a lagoon plant that has been deficient with regard to effluent quality. The collection system is comprised of a relatively large number of lift stations that lack redundancy, proper monitoring and control.

Additional wells, treatment systems, storage tanks, and connections to adjacent utilities are highly recommended to comply with the current regulations for reliable water systems. The WRP’s require immediate attention to corrosion and odor control, headworks improvements, replacement of Section 11 WRP, and discharge permitting. The lift stations are in need of redundant pumps, monitoring and control systems (SCADA), and backup power. EPCOR’s experiences and investigation in the first 30 days as Interim Manager, as appointed by the ACC, have confirmed that the Johnson Utilities systems are poorly performing and there is high risk of operational failure, environmental impacts, and service interruptions to existing customers.

You can download the full report from EPCOR here

EPCOR is hosting an Open House tonight at Central Arizona College. Learn more about what’s being done to improve your service. Please join EPCOR, Supervisor Goodman, Rep. Townsend, Rep. Shope, and Rep. Cook for a community meeting:
Event date: Thursday, October 11, 2018
Time: 6 to 7:30 pm
Location: Central Arizona College – SanTan Campus
3736 E Bella Vista Road,
San Tan Valley, AZ 85143

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