County Supervisors approve water quality plan

The Mohave County supervisors have approved a water quality plan that has taken years to develop.

The recently completed Mohave County Area Wide Water Quality Management Plan, an extension of the federal Clean Water Act, focuses on groundwater, drinking water standards, sewer systems, septic tanks, underground storage tanks and biosolids.

One of the most relevant areas is wastewater management.

The plan addresses the need for mandatory sewer connections and the use of treated wastewater for irrigation.

The last time such a plan was developed was 1978.

Several agencies - including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality - as well land developers contributed to the plan's development.

The public was invited to comment on the 106-page draft and input was accepted until Aug.

15.

All comments and testimony was reviewed and the plan revised based on the comments.

The board of supervisors held public hearings and approved the plan Monday upon the recommendation of Mohave County Planning and Zoning Director Christine Ballard.

Ballard told the supervisors that all cities in the county except Colorado City had submitted resolutions related to the plan.

Ballard said she sent three letters and made numerous phone calls asking officials in Colorado City to respond to the plan but received no answer.

Under the Clean Water Act, local jurisdictions may enact regulations as necessary to protect public health, safety and welfare.

The EPA requires a water quality plan as part of the Clean Water Act for permitting and funding purposes.

In August, Ballard said nitrates were increasingly found in the county's groundwater for a variety of reasons, the greatest being septic systems.

Septic systems function adequately as long as they are spaced far enough apart to let the ground naturally handle the nitrates, Ballard explained.

However, in areas where there is a high concentration of septic tanks, such as Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City, elevated levels of nitrates have been found.

High nitrate levels also have been found near a well north of Kingman but are not related to a septic tank.

High nitrate levels have been found to cause problems with fetal development, Ballard said.

Biosolids - highly concentrated organic pollutants used primarily in agriculture - also are mentioned in the plan.

In an effort to discourage the use of biosolids in the county, a licensing fee was approved by the board of supervisors effective Sept.

22.

The fee - $38,000 - covers the costs of testing sites to see whether the biosolids are within government standards, Mohave County Deputy County Attorney John White said.

Mohave County Resolution No.

2003-238, states in part:

"WHEREAS, the Board of Supervisors, pursuant to its authority under law determines that an Ordinance prohibiting the application of sewage sludge without a license to land in Mohave County constitutes "filth."

Since the ordinance was enacted no one has applied for a fee, White said.

Another water issue addressed in the plan is leaking underground storage tanks.

"Leaking underground storage tanks (LUSTs) pose a significant point-source category in the county.

The petroleum and hazardous chemicals contained in the tanks may infiltrate the soil and contaminate drinking water," states the plan.

Underground storage tanks are regulated under Arizona's Underground Storage Tank Act of 1986, which requires that tanks are properly registered, leak detection systems are installed and maintained, corrective action is implemented in the event of a leak and that new tanks comply with design standards.

The plan shows that 130 underground storage tanks within the county have leaked hazardous waste or petroleum since 1988.

Sixty-two of these tanks are located in the Kingman area.

The plan also addresses recommendations for the management and protection of drinking water systems in the county.

The Kingman area relies entirely on groundwater as its drinking water source.

The city currently maintains 16 drinking water wells in the Hualapai and Sacramento Valley basins.

There are seven undeveloped well sites within the city limits and 46 undeveloped well sites in Golden Valley.