Snell & Wilmer

On June 21, 2021, in conjunction with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), Governor Doug Ducey announced the provision of $2 million in state funding to facilitate the restart of Tucson Water –– a treatment plant shutdown due to severe groundwater contamination.

The funding is intended to accelerate ongoing efforts to continue safely treating contaminated water by bringing the Tucson Airport Remediation Plant (TARP) back online.

Because of heightened levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the area Tucson Water will suspend TARP operations in nearby groundwater as it constructs a State-funded temporary pipeline and permanent outfall structure in order to convey treated water leaving TARP to the Santa Cruz River. ADEQ and Tucson Water are currently negotiating an intergovernmental agreement to approve the funding.

PFAS have been detected and remain in groundwater near several military bases and airports throughout Arizona including the Arizona Air National Guard facility located at the Tucson International Airport and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

We previously reported that in April, Governor Ducey called upon the Department of Defense (DOD) to assist Arizona in addressing PFAS contamination often emanating from federal defense facilities within the state. Requests from Arizona leaders to the DOD for assistance regarding PFAS contamination, however, were not strictly partisan. Earlier this month, Senator Mark Kelly advised the Senate Armed Services Committee to include commitments to remediating PFAS contamination in the 2022 National Defense Authorization bill. In addition, Senator Kelly was joined by Senator Krysten Sinema and Representatives Grijalva, Kirkpatrick, and O’Halleran in authoring a letter to DOD to request assistance in remediating Tucson PFAS plumes.

Noting that Tucson already had filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of PFAS compounds, Governor Ducey noted that the city would continue to pursue all available legal remedies to obtain reimbursement both for its expenses and that of ADEQ in addressing the PFAS contamination. To date, Tucson Water has expended more than $8 million to address PFAS contamination and continues to test all drinking water sources for PFAS compounds across its almost 400 mile service area.

This funding announcement marks the second time in six months that ADEQ has dedicated funding to address PFAS in Tucson drinking water sources. In December, the Agency committed $3.3 million from the Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund for similar efforts. Currently, ADEQ is conducting an accelerated investigation and designing an early response action designed to protect Tucson Water’s central wellfield which the Agency views as critical to Tucson’s long-term water supply.

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