September 27, 2008

Water Co-Op Gets $200K State Loan



A small water company that serves 330 homes near Picture Rocks has been awarded a $200,000 loan from the state to help remove arsenic from its water supply.

On Aug. 14 the board of directors of the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona voted to give a low-interest loan to the Rancho del Conejo Community Water Co-Op.

The loan will help the co-op with the design, construction and installation of an arsenic remediation system, said the finance authority's chairman, Steve Owens.

"This was a very high-priority project for us to fund," said Owens, who is also chairman of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

The co-op serves an area bounded by West Orange Grove Road to the north, North Sanders Road to the east, West Sunset Road to the south and the Central Arizona Project canal to the west.

Rancho del Conejo has had a consistent arsenic level reading of 18 parts per billion in one of its three wells, Owens said. That exceeds the 10 parts per billion standard the federal Environmental Protection Agency put into effect in January 2006.

Rancho del Conejo is one of about 80 municipal or private water companies that, because of its arsenic levels, are eligible to get assistance from the finance authority, said Mark Shaffer, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

Area water companies that have gotten loans for arsenic removal in the past include the Flowing Wells Irrigation District, which got a $966,600 loan in 2005, and the Avra Water Co., which was loaned about $1.95 million in 2003.

Though Rancho del Conejo's levels aren't so high that people could taste the chemical in their water, Owens said the reduction is still necessary because arsenic can cause major organ damage if it's consumed in large enough quantities over an extended period of time.

"They need to develop a system so they can bring that down," Owens said. "We're very pleased to be working with Rancho del Conejo on this because they're doing the right thing. This is a good example of the way a water system takes responsibility head-on."

Officials with Rancho del Conejo declined to comment on the loan. Owens said that is likely because, though the loan has been awarded, the co-op won't start receiving the money until it has a plan in place for the arsenic remediation system's implementation.

"When they're ready to proceed with their project ... they'll close on the loan," Owens said.

* Contact reporter Brian J. Pedersen at 434-4079 or [email protected]

Originally published by BRIAN J. PEDERSEN, ARIZONA DAILY STAR.

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