The Casa Grande City Council has approved spending $206,533 for equipment to remove nitrates from water in the small city-owned Copper Mountain Valley Water Co.
The equipment is expected to resolve a longstanding problem the water company has had with nitrate levels exceeding the health levels. The city has been sanctioned by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and entered into a consent agreement that it would install removal equipment.
Public Works Director Kevin Louis told the council, “We’re hoping to get this completed in about three to four months. It’s going to be quite the effort but we believe we can meet the requirements of the (ADEQ) consent order.”
He continued, “At this time, the plan is that the wastewater staff will perform the labor needed to install this equipment, as we started to run into some budget issues and just thought it would be better if we did that in-house to save some funds. That is what we’re going to try and do.”
Answering a question from Councilman Dick Powell, Louis said that the nitrates removed from the water will be held in a containment area until pumped out and taken for disposal.
The contract indicates that the water company, with one well, serves an estimated 690 people and has 276 connections.
The facility is located near the intersection of Anderson Road and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. It is entirely separate from the private Arizona Water Co., which serves the majority of residents within Casa Grande.
The city had previously advertised for a consulting company that could determine what equipment would be needed for nitrate removal.
According to that request, “this facility includes an existing 180-gallons-per-minute well, 300,000-gallon storage tank and booster pumps. The water produced by the existing well exceeds the maximum contaminate level (10 mg/l) for nitrates. Nitrates have been observed at levels of approximately 10.5 to 12 mg/l.”
The small water company was acquired years ago around the time the ill-fated Copper Mountain Ranch megaproject northwest of Pinal Avenue was being ballyhooed. The operation covers Santa Rosa Ranch, Santa Rosa III and Saddleback Farms. Mayor Bob Jackson said during discussions last year that the geographical area of the city water company is “north of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway for the most part, west of Russell Road to Anderson Road, and then there’s a second component that is south of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway about half a mile south on the west side of Anderson Road.”
The city has had problems with the system since the beginning. So why, then, did the city acquire it?
Almost 11 years ago, then Mayor Chuck Walton said during a boards and commissions dinner that with the growth of the city at that time, officials decided to go into the water business to be able to have a say in water planning for the future of the area.
“To get in the water business,” he told the audience, “the estimates we found would have cost $3 million to start from scratch to form a water company on the north end of Casa Grande to accommodate some of the fast growth that we were seeing at that time.”
He added, “We searched around and found a water company that was already in existence that had about 250 customers. It was literally a piece of junk. It wasn’t worth 15 cents, but the purchase price was over a million dollars. Now, we got a lot of criticism for that, for how come these idiots would hit taxpayers 1.2 or 1.3 million dollars for a piece of junk.”
Walton continued, “Well, number one, I want to remind everybody that we didn’t spend taxpayers’ money on that water company. We got a mediation gift from Reliant (Energy) for putting that big steamboat out on the west end of town that’s known as the electric generation plant (now an SRP facility). They bought that water company and gave it to us and we gave it to the citizens of Casa Grande. So we literally started into the water business at the taxpayers’ expense of zero dollars.”
Walton added that, “we’re on the verge right now of putting that water company on the market, (because) we don’t need it any more. And since we don’t need to anymore, it’s an asset we need to liquidate. We’ve got a minimum bid on that water company of $5 million, so anything over $5 million (and) that water company’s going to have a new owner.”
Nothing came of that.