Letter: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts

Editor

I generally avoid responding to letters I see in the newspaper, however, we have worked so hard to share the facts and calm people’s fears about arsenic content in our water that have been fueled by misinformation such as the letter from Mr. Oliphant. Also, since I wrote and approved most of the content of the newsletter “Just the Facts,” I also felt my integrity was being brought into question.

It is very important to state that the city water is not “contaminated” and never has been currently or prior to the arsenic remediation. This is the same water that people in the Verde Valley have been drinking for over 100 years. There have also been misleading reports of higher incidents of cancer in Yavapai County, which if you look at county-by-county comparisons is simply not true.

Cottonwood did not buy the water companies until 2004 and 2006 so we have not been working with the EPA for a “decade.” The new arsenic regulation for Cottonwood became effective January 23, 2006, the day before we purchased Cottonwood Water Works the largest and last water company of the four systems originally purchased. Based on this new standard we had 27 wells that required remediation at an estimated capital cost of $8 million. This is the reason that the private owners wanted out of the water business. Fortunately, through good planning, we were able to reduce those capital costs to $2.5 million.

When this new standard took effect neither the private arsenic treatment equipment industry nor the regulatory agencies were prepared. We had a difficult time finding a qualified vendor which necessitated bidding the arsenic remediation multiple times to obtain a proper bid. Then half way through the process of installing the arsenic remediation equipment our vendor filed for bankruptcy which further delayed the project. We experienced delays by the state regulatory agencies as they reviewed our plans for remediation. During this entire time we continued to coordinate with EPA and they worked with us to extend time limits as justified by delays beyond the City’s control.

Our water systems were only inspected one time by EPA on Sept. 13-14, 2010. They were very pleased with the City’s work and they felt we represented a very positive example for achieving the arsenic remediation requirement. Mayor Joens and I had an opportunity to visit with the EPA inspectors and they relayed to both of us how impressed they were with the City’s progress and our commitment to meeting the new arsenic standards. Staff is currently trying to arrange a date EPA can return to share that assessment during a City Council meeting in the near future. There was never any “big stick” applied by EPA. The fact is there was good cooperation between all the agencies involved.

Finally, Mr. Oliphant is right that we have one well that is still not in compliance. It is providing water that shows maximum levels of arsenic at 11 Parts Per Billion (PPB) as opposed to 10 PPB as required by the new standards. As approved by the ADEQ, this well will be treated for arsenic remediation by December of 2010 or sooner. As was appropriate, we started the remediation process with the wells that were showing the highest levels of arsenic and you should also be aware that the highest level of arsenic allowed before the new standard was 50 PPB.

No one in the City has ever been contacted by Mr. Oliphant regarding his concerns and his “facts.” I think with all of the hard work that has been accomplished to make our safe water a little safer, it would have been at least courteous for him to check his facts with those who performed the work. It has been said, ‘That everyone is entitled to their own opinion – but not their own facts” and had Mr. Oliphant given us a chance to respond to his “facts” he might have arrived at a different, more positive opinion. But then again, some people always prefer to see the glass as half empty (pun intended).

Doug Bartosh

City Manager

City of Cottonwood

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