4/10/2013 9:46:00 AM ADEQ, Prescott Valley reach $675K settlement over sewer spills
Ken Hedler Special to the Tribune
The Arizona Department of Environment Quality and the Town of Prescott Valley announced a $675,000 settlement Friday over sewage spills that began in January 2010 at the town's sewer plant.
The settlement stems from numerous sewage spills caused by contractor failure, including the discharge of 1.6 million gallons of sewage into the Agua Fria River Jan. 21-22, 2010, ADEQ announced in a news release. The spill occurred after a storm-triggered power failure at the sewer plant, located near the river off East Valley and Fain roads.
In addition to paying a $25,000 penalty, the town must complete a supplemental environmental project (SEP) valued at $150,000 and implement a "sanitary sewer overflow action plan" valued at $500,000 to resolve at least 10 separate untreated sewage discharges that that occurred between 2010 and 2012.
A second large discharge occurred from Oct. 13, to 18, 2011, when approximately 320,000 gallons of sewage overflowed from the town's Quailwood pump station, also near the Agua Fria River.
Town officials blame the October 2011 spill on "operator error" involving pump controls at a lift station next to the river, a news release from the town stated.
The town will bear most of the settlement costs, Utilities Director Neil Wadsworth said Friday. That includes spending $360,000 for a sewer-cleaning truck, "which we were going to do anyway," he said.
The truck will clean the entire sewer system over a two-year period, Wadsworth said. The ADEQ news release stated the town has 280 miles of collection system pipelines and manholes.
Wadsworth said the town will install supervisory and data acquisitions controls and alarms on all 10 sewer lift (pump) stations with the intent of remote monitoring and management.
The town also will produce educational videos and distribute fliers to encourage customer support and participation to reduce materials that clog sewer lines, the town's news release stated.
Town staff also will revise the emergency response manual, update the town code with regard to allowable pollutants discharged into the sewer system, and conduct annual inspections and sampling of sewage discharged from the town's two industrial customers.
The town's water and sewer contractor, CH2M Hill OMI, will be responsible for paying the $25,000 fine, Wadsworth and Town Manager Larry
Tarkowski said. OMI officials were unavailable for comment Friday.
OMI has operated the sewer plant since it opened in 1993, and has provided water and sewer services in Prescott Valley for years. The town is paying OMI more than $4 million for a contract for the fiscal year ending July 1.
OMI staff does not man the sewer plant around the clock, and the January 2010 spill occurred after hours during a major storm, Tarkowski said.
Pumps that receive sewer at the plant malfunctioned after the storm-triggered power failure, and a backup generator did not come on, Wadsworth said.
The sewer plant now has backup power from www.aps.com">Arizona Public Service and two backup generators, Wadsworth said.
"We are doing all we can to prevent it from happening again," Wadsworth said.
Wadsworth and other town officials previously did not disclose to the news media the October 2011 spill. However, he said town officials posted warnings along the river, which he said is a "pretty isolated" area.
Wadsworth said the settlement was long in the making in part because town officials had no communication from ADEQ for a year and a half after an initial meeting. ADEQ issued a notice of violation in April 2010.
ADEQ Communications Director Mark Shaffer had no simple explanation.
"When you get attorneys, municipalities going back and forth, it takes time," Shaffer said.
The settlement over the sewer plant spills is also subject to court approval, ADEQ's news release stated.
The sewer plant underwent a major expansion in 2007, and now handles an average flow of 3.75 million gallons per day, Wadsworth said. During storms, the plant can handle about 7.5 million gallons per day.