ADEQ process underway for contaminated site in Lakeside

LAKESIDE – The Arizona Department of Environmental (ADEQ) held an open public meeting at Timber Mesa Fire District on August 6 for the Highway 260 and Johnson Lane Site Community Advisory Board (CAB) for the Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund (WQARF).

In 2015, a sampling of groundwater detected tetrachloroethene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE) in private wells on properties near the intersection of Highway 260 and Johnson Lane the site of a former dry cleaning business. An underground “plume” of the chemicals is affecting the wells.

ADEQ presented updates on the Hwy. 260 and Johnson Lane groundwater issue and gave presentations on the recently completed Feasibility Study Report (FS) and the Operations and Maintenance Plan (O&M).

The broader description of the Hwy 260 and Johnson Lane site is defined by ADEQ as “within the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside, generally bounded to the north by the Jackson Lane alignment, to the south by the east-west alignment of West White Mountain Blvd. (State Route Hwy 260) and Burke Lane, to the east by the western side of the Blue Ridge Unified School District property and Billy Creek, and to the west by the Neils Hanson Lane alignment.”

PCE concentrations found at the site were above the Arizona Aquifer Water Quality Standard (AWQS) of 5 parts per billion (ppb); PCE concentrations ranged from 47 to 59 parts per billion (ppb) in private wells used to supply drinking water and irrigation. The TCE concentrations were below the AWQS of 5 ppb.

PCE is a manmade solvent commonly used in the dry cleaning process and as a degreaser in many industrial applications. TCE is a heavy, colorless liquid used to degrease metals, is used as an extraction solvent for oils and waxes, as a refrigerant, in dry cleaning and as a fumigant. It can also be a breakdown product of PCE.

ADEQ states that PCE or TCE over many years could cause a person to experience problems with their liver and may increase their risk of cancer. They add that the evaluation of the site does not necessarily represent a determination that the release of a hazardous substance at the site poses a threat to human health or the environment. Their concern for this site is that additional privately owned wells could be impacted by groundwater contamination.

To protect public health, ADEQ worked with well owners affected by the contamination to put filtering systems in their homes to ensure they have safe drinking water.

No wells used for drinking water for Blue Ridge schools are located at the site of the contamination.

ADEQ’s next action was to add the Hwy 260 and Johnson Lane site to the WQARF registry which was done on June 24, 2016. The registry was established by Arizona law to conduct statewide surface and groundwater monitoring; study health effects; perform early remedial actions, and to conduct long-term remedial action programs.

The ADEQ procedure for working with a site begins with the Preliminary Investigation, which has been done for the Hwy 260 and Johnson Lane location. If no further action is needed the site is monitored — which is not applicable to this location. Then a site is registered with WQARF after a Remedial Investigation (source of and extent of groundwater contamination). Then comes the Feasibility Study, which offers three different clean-up options. A Proposed Remedial Action Plan, Record of Decision, Implementation of Remedy and finally site de-listing upon completion of the process.

ADEQ’s Project Manager Matt Narter presented the completed FS at the meeting. He explained that ADEQ has three different levels of possible clean-up of the site. Offered is one reference remedy (clean-up) for consideration, one less aggressive remedy, and one more aggressive remedy. The contamination at the site is considered with each remedy and the commonalities of each is assessed, along with risk, cost and benefit before deciding on a plan. Overall, the decision made has to fit the ADEQ criteria of being reasonable, necessary, cost-effective and assuring the protection of public health and welfare and the environment. A remedial plan is also put in place should monitoring along the way reveal any significant changes.

The Operations and Maintenance Plan for the site supports carbon water filtration as a proven, cost-effective technology for treating PCE.

Pinetop-Lakeside Town Manager Keith Johnson, one of the CAB members, said that some good news was that PCE levels have decreased.

According to a recording of the meeting, Narter explained that sometimes levels can adjust on their own.

Current CAB members are Co-chairs Matt Patterson of Pinetop-Lakeside Public Works and Lee Hetrick of Arizona Water Company; Pinetop-Lakeside Town Manager Keith Johnson; former Pinetop-Lakeside Mayor Barbara Teague and Donald Earl.

The complete Community Involvement Plan for the Hwy 260 and Johnson Lane site can be found online at http://static.azdeq.gov/wqarf/highway_260_johnson_cip.pdf.

ADEQ asks that anyone who owns or operates a private well in the site area who has not had their water tested to contact them. They will arrange to collect a sample from your well.

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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