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Gov. Ducey funds $2 million to reopen TARP water treatment plant

Air National Guard plans to investigate contamination
Updated: Jun. 22, 2021 at 5:49 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Tucson Airport Remediation Project water treatment plant shut down Monday, June 21, after increasing levels of contaminants were found in the groundwater serving the plant. Gov. Doug Ducey announced $2 million in state funding to reopen the plant.

TARP was shut down out of an abundance of caution as levels of PFAS contaminants continue to rise. Tucson Water spokesperson James MacAdam said the funds will be used to fast-track construction of a temporary pipeline to the Santa Cruz River in the next three to five months.

“It allows us to continue running the plant, treating the contaminated groundwater and have a safe place to put the water,” he said.

PFAS are a man-made chemical believed to have seeped into the ground around the airport, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Air National Guard. The contaminants can lead to health issues like birth defects and effects on the immune system.

“Much of the contamination can be tied to activities of the department of defense,” MacAdam said.

City leaders say the Air National Guard is expected to investigate the contamination, where it came from and what can be done about it. City Council member Steve Kozachik says the investigation may take too long and last through the end of 2024.

“We don’t have three and a half year years for them to figure it out,” he said.

He says groundwater cleanup efforts will cost tens of millions of dollars.

“This is not a little deal that the ratepayers in the city of Tucson ought to be picking up the tab for,” Kozachik said.

Although Tucson Water doesn’t intend TARP water to be used for drinking water ever again, the company said cleaning the water helps prevent contaminants from spreading further.

“In terms of preserving that water for our long-term resources for the community. We still need to clean that PFAS out of there,” MacAdam said.

Tucson Water is planning to construct a permanent pipeline from TARP to the Santa Cruz and the reclaimed water system sometime in 2022.

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