Truxton Canyon hit with service, safety violations

Companies take a beating at ACC hearings

Ellen Love speaks during the Truxton Canyon Water Company hearing Thursday afternoon in the Mohave County Administration Building.

JC AMBERLYN/Miner<br> Ellen Love speaks during the Truxton Canyon Water Company hearing Thursday afternoon in the Mohave County Administration Building.

KINGMAN - In a rare move, the Arizona Corporation Commission last week filed an order to show cause against the Truxton Canyon Water Company, which services residents of the Valle Vista neighborhood northeast of Kingman.

In a public comment session held Thursday afternoon at the Mohave County Administration Building, ACC Chairwoman Kris Mayes briefly summarized the content of the order, which was filed by ACC staff on Wednesday. The order alleges a staggering array of service deficiencies and regulatory failures on Truxton's behalf over the past decade. Among these are: failure to maintain consistent water pressure, continued violation of the maximum arsenic levels allowed under law, no quarterly monitoring or sampling methodology, failure to submit monitoring samples for three years in a row and allowing at least 20 leaks to form in its piping system.

The order also indicates substantial commingling of funds and assets between the water company and the Claude K. Neal Family Trust, similar to findings made during investigations into the Cerbat Water Company, which services several hundred residents north of Kingman. Both water companies are run by members of the Neal family, specifically Mike Neal and B. Marc Neal.

Additionally, the order alleges that Truxton's accounting practices do not adhere to those of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, nor to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, which comprise the standard framework for all financial accounting practices. There are also allegations of instances where the company accepted a monetary advance for the construction of a main extension and multiple fire hydrants, only to never actually follow through with the work.

In total, ACC staff alleged Truxton of no fewer than 15 counts of various Arizona Revised Statutes and Arizona Administrative Code violations, citing a final provision in the state constitution that grants the ACC the right to demand Truxton prove it did not. Should it fail to do so, the ACC may then take steps toward installing an interim manager to take control of the company.

Following her description of the order's contents, Mayes then opened the floor for Truxton customers to voice their concerns about the company, adding that, in her eyes, the current situation was "totally unacceptable." She also noted that the ACC is likely to issue a final vote on Truxton by late summer or early fall, and that comments made Thursday would be added to the docket during the case hearings.

Five Truxton customers spoke out against the company, alleging various problems similar to those cited in the order. Chuck Hess of Valle Vista presented Commissioners with a sample of water pipe he had extracted from his back yard, showing that it had been broken for so long that plants had actually grown roots through it. A recent transplant to Valle Vista, he added that his neighbors told him the pipe had been leaking for at least three years.

Another customer, Ellen Love of the Arizona West subdivision, said that she had been suffering inconsistent water pressure for the past 20 years. She also claimed that she had approached one of the Neals on several occasions with questions about the water's mineral content only for him to reply "Oh, well, the mineral water companies are always after us, our water's really good!"

"And that was the end of that," Love concluded.

Another Valle Vista resident, Jay Culp, said he had his water tested only to learn it had three times the acceptable legal arsenic level. He added that, living at the end of an isolated 130-foot main, he had to "beg" the company multiple times to flush his line since the mineral buildup was so bad.

"Basically, what they're delivering to my house is irrigation water - I can't drink it, I can't cook with it," Culp said. "And they're charging me over $3 per thousand (gallons) for irrigation water. Now, I think that a water company is supposed to supply me with good water, so they should either deliver bottled water to my house, or lower my price to 40 or 50 cents a thousand, because that's what they're delivering to me."

Yet another resident of Valle Vista, Vicki Hoag, said that while Truxton had been making an effort to repair many of its leaks, her neighborhood alone still counted as many as eight of them. She, too, echoed Culp's concerns over the arsenic levels, as well as the general sentiment of many of her fellow neighbors.

"I just think I shouldn't have to worry about my water this much," Hoag said. "When is enough enough? We're tired, and we don't feel we should have to put up with this."