San Tan Valley residents angry with Johnson Utilities over sewage spill

Posted at 5:01 PM, Jul 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-31 01:22:39-04

More complaints about Johnson Utilities are coming forward, this time after a sewage spill in San Tan Valley.

Customers in the neighborhood are fired up, saying this is the third time it has happened in the last year.

Krystle Mann recorded video of the sewage spill in the Morning Sun Farms community on Sunday morning.  

"It was horrible. There was toilet paper; there was poop, there was everything coming out. We contacted Johnson Utilities twice. They still didn't get back to us, so we ended up calling the police department," said Mann.

Mann said realizing it was Sunday, they did reach out to the utility company's emergency line but got no response. Her husband finally called 9-1-1,  and Mann says Pinal County Sheriff's officials were finally able to get Johnson Utility crews out to the community.

"We first waited for an hour and a half and got no response, so that is when my husband called 9-1-1.   Three hours later, they got ahold of somebody, and they came out here to start cleaning up," said Mann.

On Monday, the smell of raw sewage mixed with chemicals still lingered in the community.

"It's just awful. It's to the point where you can't let your kids in the front yard or backyard to play because the smell is so awful. You obviously don't want your kids to step in anything either," said Mann.

ABC15 reached out to Johnson Utilities but did not get a call back from supervisors. We also checked their website and social media pages, but saw no information posted in regards to the latest sewage spill.

The private utility company was already in the state spotlight after hundreds of complaints from customers. After weeks of hearings, the Arizona Corporation Commission that oversees private utility companies has voted to appoint an interim manager to oversee operations at Johnson Utilities. It's a drastic step, after so many problems.

ACC officials say they have received complaints about everything from low water pressure, to billing issues, water contamination and sewage leaks, and spills from the community over the last few years.

The Commission voted to appoint Epcor Utilities as the interim manager, but a state spokesperson said details are still being finalized.

San Tan Valley resident Nick Myers who has written blogs about the frustrations within the community likens the problems they are dealing with to living in a third world country.

"We have people hoarding water, they are keeping drums of water on their property just so they can bathe before going to work. Those are third world practices," said Myers.

Myers added that it all really boiled down to poor customer service offered to the community.

"If Johnson Utilities had a better customer service department their water would taste a whole lot better and I still believe that. That is a generalization. A lot of these problems do happen elsewhere, it's just a matter of telling the community about it, tell them in a timely fashion, tell them what they can do about it, and what they can expect in the near future, just be involved," said Myers.

Myers hoped Epcor managers would do a better job, if they took over the utility company operations.

"That would be the biggest advice I can give Epcor. Just please, have some compassion for what we've been through," said Myers.