The Marana Town Council recently approved building two water treatment facilities to remove contaminants affecting several residential areas.
Residents of Saguaro Bloom, Continental Reserve and Happy Acres have pushed the council to remove the unregulated 1,4-Dioxane and Perfluorinated Compounds from wells providing water to those Marana subdivisions. While the council is under no legal obligation to remove the compounds, which exceed Environmental Protection Agency health advisory levels, they’ve agreed to do so at the behest of residents.
The council unanimously authorized the creation of the Picture Rocks Water Treatment Campus and Airline/Lambert Water Treatment Campus capital projects, in addition to $2 million in funding to get the projects started during its Sept. 25 study session. They also authorized the application of a low-interest government loan to fund the project, which will cost between $12 million to $15 million and take 18 to 20 months to complete. The treatment goals are to completely destroy or significantly reduce the contaminants in question.
First, the town will apply for the loan and find a firm to design the project. The town predicts the design process will start in December, and pre-construction next February. Full-scale construction will begin next August, and estimated completion is June 2020.
Several residents told council at the study session they were glad to see action, but wished it could be accomplished quicker.
William Eldridge, who lives in Continental Reserve, also asked the council if they would test household water filters, which now come standard in the Saguaro Bloom homes, to see how much of the contaminants are being successfully removed, and whether those filters are going o be sufficient for the next two years.
Eldridge and a number of residents at council meetings and study sessions have also asked for the council to financially compensate them for buying bottled water or having water quality that’s less than other Marana Water customers.
“I don’t see any reason why I have to pay a full water bill just like everybody else when the water’s not potable,” Eldridge said.
Mayor Ed Honea said the town will not be providing a separate water source, reimbursements or individually test household water filtration systems.
“We’re doing it ’cause we want to do it, not because we have to do it,” Honea said about building the treatment centers.
He did say the town will test two or three of the standard Saguaro Bloom systems to put people’s minds at ease, but going beyond that would be “an absolute fiasco” because compound levels could vary by house and time period, creating too many changing variables to deal with.
The mayor did say that if he lived in Saguaro Bloom or Continental Reserve, he’d drink the water, adding he has many friends living there who do just that.
The town will pay back the loan at a rate of $750,000 to $1 million a year for 20 years, with an interest rate that will likely be under 3 percent, according to deputy town manager Erik Montague.
Marana town staff recommended either a sales tax redistribution or increase to pay back the loan. Allocating one-tenth of a percent from sales taxes would raise the annual $1 million needed. The town probably won’t have to begin repaying a loan until July 2019, and the council will decide how to fund the reimbursement at a later date.
Montague said there will be ongoing costs associated with the town expanding their water quality standards beyond regulated compounds to include compounds that exceed health advisory levels. Besides current and possible future capital infrastructure costs, there will be additional operations and maintenance costs. And residents’ water bills may increase to cover the cost of maintaining and running the water treatment centers.
The town will continue updating information on their website with progress, including dates of community meetings on the issue, at maranaaz.gov/water.