Cobb: Water company has ignored ultimatums

State representative fields questions at Valle Vista

Regina Cobb

Regina Cobb

VALLE VISTA - Around 100 residents from Valle Vista packed the Valle Vista Country Club clubhouse on Wednesday evening to listen to state Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, who spoke of the troubled Truxton Canyon Water Company, and the steps they'll need to take to get clean water to Valle Vista residents.

Cobb was brought in by Mohave County Supervisor Gary Watson to act on the state level on behalf of the citizens of Valle Vista.

Prior to the meeting, Cobb had met with Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Henry Darwin to discuss the situation with Truxton Canyon.

"The ADEQ has been working with Truxton Canyon to get arsenic below levels, but they have not abided by the ultimatums set up by the ADEQ," said Cobb.

ADEQ spokeswoman Caroline Oppleman outlined those ultimatums dating back eight years, including:

• January 2007 - Exceeding arsenic levels from the entry point into its distribution system

• December 2008 - Failed to meet the conditions of a Notice of Violation issued by ADEQ.

• May 2011 - Failed to comply with terms of a consent order issued in January that required Truxton Canyon to conduct an engineering study for upgrades and the building of a possible arsenic treatment system.

• July 2012 - Failed to comply, again, with terms of the January 2011 consent order.

• December 2012 - Failed to construct an arsenic treatment system

The latest complaint from the ADEQ was filed in October 2014, and on June 4 the court ordered Truxton Canyon to complete construction of an arsenic treatment system within one year.

Cobb also confirmed on Wednesday that Truxton Canyon had not completed their WIFA loan application for the court-ordered arsenic treatment system.

"It's a slow process at the state level. That's why Watson brought me in. We are still under a process, and the ACC is not under my jurisdiction," said Cobb. "I'm here to assist you, and make sure you are going in the right direction."

Complaints were plentiful from the packed audience. A couple of residents said they had tested their own water and had arsenic levels well above what the tests from Truxton Canyon were showing. One of those residents lived near what is called a "dead head" - a stop in the pipes, where there is limited flow and sediment such as arsenic settles where they draw in water.

Many residents were also upset with the procedure of getting clean water from Truxton Canyon.

The current process has residents come to the office on Concho Drive to get one gallon of drinking water per day, per person. They have to come during regular office hours - 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - Monday through Friday,

That process conflicted with what Cobb was told by the ADEQ.

"When I talked to (an ADEQ official), he said it had to be a filled container, or some kind of filtration at the house, or put some kind of dispenser in some person's house. He did not tell me they could go behind a wall and put it in someone's office," said Cobb in a phone interview. "It has to be certified that it isn't the water coming out of the ground."

"Truxton is only doing it 5 days a week, and only one bottle a day. None of those things are convenient. As far as I'm concerned, they are non-compliant with that," said Cobb.

According to another ADEQ official, the process set up by Truxton Canyon is an "ADEQ-approved alternate source of drinking water" and that the water coming out of the reverse osmosis system at Truxton is compliant with both coliform and arsenic levels.

Next Steps

After fielding questions from the audience, Cobb discussed the next steps for Valle Vista.

Most pressing on everyone's mind was getting clean water to the community as quickly as possible. Cobb assured the audience that she would be talking with the ADEQ when she was in the capitol next week, and many audience members discussed the costs with getting reverse osmosis filters in their homes.

Costs from the audience ranged from a couple hundred dollars into the thousands. People were also concerned about the type of arsenic that was getting filtered out.

According to the ADEQ, the maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) reported are for the total level of organic and inorganic forms of arsenic. The two common forms of inorganic arsenic, arsenic-III and arsenic-V, are the ones filters look to remove.

One resident told Cobb that this was Truxton Canyon's problem, and that they should be footing the bill.

"It's not fixing his problem, it's your problem too," responded Cobb, who said that solutions to the water problem in Valle Vista would take some money in some form from water company customers.

In the long term, Cobb recommended to the audience that they explore ways to change management of Truxton Canyon. The current owner is Rick Neal.

"It sounds like they haven't been able to work with this gentleman," Cobb said in the phone interview. "The next step would be to figure out how to get it out of his hands."

At the meeting, she also said that a class-action lawsuit for previous issues may be something worth pursuing for the residents.