Arizona's Johnson Utilities cited with Notice of Violation after contamination

SAN TAN VALLEY, AZ - The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has issued a Notice of Violation to Johnson Utilities after the state conducted an inspection at the facility in late August.

According to a letter sent to the company on Tuesday, ADEQ discovered eight violations, including a failure by the company to "make an effort (to) properly notify the media as described in their emergency plan,"  and failure to "follow up the Public Notice to keep the public aware of the water quality progress."

In August, residents in the San Tan Valley area told the ABC15 Investigators they were upset they were not informed sooner, when Johnson Utilities learned of water samples that had tested positive for E. coli bacteria and total Coliform bacteria.

At the time, the company distributed a warning message to local schools, but much of the rest of the public wasn't officially notified until a day later.      

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Johnson Utilities said, "We are confident that after we further explain the course of events to ADEQ, the agency will agree that no sanctions are appropriate.  We will be meeting with ADEQ soon to do precisely that."

Read the company's full statement below.

"Johnson Utilities apologizes for the inconvenience this warning may have caused to our valuable customers," a company statement indicated in August in response to the concerns from the public.

"The safety of our customers is our first concern. Our families live in our service area and consume the same water as our other valued customers," said Greg Brown, Vice President of Operations for Johnson Utilities, in August.

Read the other violations here

PREVIOUS ENFORCEMENT ACTION

Johnson Utilities has an "extensive enforcement history" with the state of Arizona, according to Mark Shaffer, a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

The ABC15 Investigators discovered multiple Notices of Violations issued by the state to the company during the past decade.

The violations include reprimands for a 2008 sewer overflow that discharged 10,000 gallons of raw sewage.

The ABC15 Investigators also discovered an $80,000 settlement between the state and the company in 2003 for failing to obtain the proper approvals before constructing and operating a water facility.

STATEMENT FROM JOHNSON UTILITIES

As our valued customers no doubt recall, in August we issued a boil water advisory after receiving laboratory reports–later determined to be erroneous–suggesting the presence of drinking water contaminants in our system.

We received today from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality a notice of alleged violations related to that incident.  The notice is the first step in the agency's process of evaluating whether Johnson Utilities ran afoul of any regulatory requirements while it was dealing with this false alarm.  Johnson Utilities worked closely with ADEQ on the approval of the proper notification and notified our customers through a variety of newspapers, television and radio stations, print media, and the web in the timeframe required by the agency.   

We are confident that after we further explain the course of events to ADEQ, the agency will agree that no sanctions are appropriate.  We will be meeting with ADEQ soon to do precisely that.

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