The Town of Marana received about $1.5 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to design and construct a new lift station and force main to pump sewage from the Adonis Mobile Home Park’s two over-capacity lagoons into the municipal sewer system.

The mayor and council unanimously voted to take over the neighborhood’s privately-owned wastewater system and build new infrastructure last May, but final approval of the funds from the state government came in last month. Now that the state has given the green light, and construction can begin this year. 

Marana officials are in the final stages of design and the project should be getting started very soon, according to Town Manager Jamsheed Mehta, however there is not an exact time frame.

The sewage stored in the brimming treatment lagoons sits just east of Interstate-10 and is at risk of overflowing. Such an occurrence could potentially cause an environmental and health hazard, according to the town’s press release. Across the freeway to the west lies Ora Mae Harn District Park, the Marana Western Heritage Arena and Marana Middle School.

With the new lift station and force main, the sewage from Adonis will be pumped from the lagoons to the sewer collection in the San Lucas neighborhood nearby. From there, the sewage will be treated at the Marana Water Reclamation Facility and the town can reuse the water in a variety of ways.

“This sewer project was identified when we were trying to see what we could do [to fix] the streets,” Mehta said last Wednesday. “But in order to get better drainage the first thing we have do is try to figure out what’s the condition of the sewer system underneath the street, and that suggested we had a whole lot more issues to deal with. So we have to fix the sewer system before we fix the streets.”

The money for the project is part of a larger $11 million dispersed by the CWSRF to several municipalities throughout Arizona. About 80 percent of these funds come from the Environmental Protection Agency and the states that receive the money kick in the other 20 percent.

The money is classified as a loan but half of the amount is a “forgivable principal,” which the town is not required to pay back. The other half has a 2.7 percent interest rate.

“These are long-term commitments, so it’s going to be a while before the full amount has to be paid out, but it will be included in our current work,” Mehta said. “We’re doing our budgets and ultimately it’s a debt service that we will be working with the town so that’s part of the budget projection.”

Tucson Local Media previously reported on the Adonis neighborhood’s decades-long septic issues and road conditions. There are 142 homes in the area that bring in around 20,000 to 25,000 gallons of sewer water a day, which is the maximum that the system (designed in the 1970s) is able to take.

“They had a very old system that was in place before they were even part of the Town of Marana,” Mehta said. “When we took it over some months ago it was decided that we would not be in any position to maintain the existing lagoons which is why now we are undertaking this design to connect sewage flows from the Adonis neighborhood to the closest available sanitary sewer site in northern Marana.”

The Town of Marana also received a $15 million loan in mid-December from the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona to combat ongoing issues with unregulated compounds in municipal drinking water. The final loan agreement with AZWIFA will be brought to the town council for final acceptance this month, according to a press release.

About a year ago, Marana received test results that showed PFOA and PFOS compounds (which can cause a variety of health complications) ranged from 68 to 101 parts per trillion in seven wells. There is currently no federal regulation on the amount of these chemicals in drinking water, but the EPA recommends the chemical levels should not exceed 70 parts per trillion. 

In addition to elevated PFOA and PFOS, officials found elevated levels of 1,4-dioxane, a synthetic chemical the EPA considers to likely be carcinogenic to humans over time. Despite the health concerns, PFOA, PFOS and dioxane are widely used in common household products.

Tucson Local Media previously reported that the wells were shut down to allow water officials to address the contamination. There were 2,700 households affected in the Saguaro Bloom, Continental Reserve, Happy Acres, La Puerta del Norte, Milligan’s Acres, Ironwood Reserve and Sunset Ranch Estates areas, as well as homes not within a subdivision.

Last September the mayor and council approved the construction of two new treatment facilities for its affected water systems. In November, the town filed a joint lawsuit with the City of Tucson against five companies who manufactured products containing PFOA and PFOS. They hope the lawsuit will result in reimbursement to the town for the cost of the new facilities, which carry a $12 to 15 million price tag.

If successful, the lawsuit could help cover the cost of PFOA and PFOS cleanup, but not the dioxane chemicals that are also present.

Marana Water has selected and is currently negotiating a contract with a design engineering firm to begin the process of design for the two advanced water treatment plants, according to the press release. Each water system will have a treatment plant built to significantly reduce or remove the chemicals. Construction is scheduled to begin in August.

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