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Tucson Water shutting down plant before chemicals can get out into drinking water

Running water
Posted at 5:52 PM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 20:52:22-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9) — Tucson Water will be shutting down the Tucson Airport Remediation Project on the 21st. They say contaminated water has not been released to the community, but chemicals in the groundwater serving the plant have been increasing to dangerous levels.

Tucson’s southside has a long, painful history with water contamination.

“We’ve lived it, we’ve breathed it, and a lot of us have eaten it,” said Robert Jaramillo of Las Aguas.

Jaramillo and other community members say chemicals in the drinking water have been a problem for generations.

“We’ve all experienced classmates, siblings, parents, children who have suffered the consequenses of contamination in the community.”

The Tucson Airport Remediation Project or TARP was built in the 90s to remove TCE from the water, but in recent years different chemicals known as PFAS have been on the rise coming into the facility. Leaders say its getting to be too much to successfully treat and they will close TARP temporarily but indefinitely on June 21st.

“We can no longer confidentally deliver safe drinking water from TARP due to elevated PFAS levels entering the facility prior to treatment,” said Mayor Regina Romero.

Tucson Water says the pollution originates near the Tucson International Airport, and says firefighting foam used at airports and military operations could be the source.

“Pointing back towards the Tucson airport and the Air National Gaurd installation, people can draw their own conclusions about that, although it has not been determined in a court of law who is responsible,” said Assistant City Manager Tim Thomure.

City leaders say the parties responsible for the pollution should have to pay for full-scale treatment of PFAS before the water enters TARP.

“I want to thank you mayor and city council for stepping up to the plate and saying enough is enough and reach out to the culprits and the responsible parties to take care of our community,” said Jaramillo.

While TARP is offline, 60,000 customers will now recieve Colorado River water not impacted by PFAS. The city is currently in a law suit with the manufacturer of the foam used at airports and has also had discussions with the Air National Guard. Tucson Water has 200 groundwater wells around our community used like a bank storing water. 18 of them are offline or disconnected because of PFAS.