Editorial: Water quality reporting a black eye for city, but problem resolved seven months ago

There are a lot of “would’ve, should’ve, could’ve” laments this week at Cottonwood City Hall following the revelations about careless, sloppy perhaps even fraudulent documentation of the water quality delivered by the city.

The city leans to the careless and sloppy explanation for what best can be explained as fudging on the reports issued to the state relating to bacteria levels in city water. Even with the admitted fudging, City Manager Doug Bartosh is adamant that the public never faced any health risk from drinking city water.

The Attorney General’s Office sees it differently. The AG contends the practices of one now-former city employee was a criminal act and that employee was served with an indictment and a summons to appear in court. That’s the accusation. It’s up to the court, or a jury, to determine if a criminal line indeed was crossed.

But whether it’s criminal or just plain carelessness, no one is debating that the practices employed by the city in its reporting of water quality standards to the state left much to be desired. The city is clearly in the wrong on this one.

There is no debate from the city on that. City officials have admitted as much on Cottonwood’s Facebook page, and issued a public apology.

It bears emphasis, though, that while the issue came to light this week because criminal charges were filed against a city employee, this problem was resolved seven months ago. In October 2017, the city entered into a “corrective action” agreement with Arizona Department of Health Services and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. The essence of that agreement is that while the city will continue to collect necessary samples for water quality testing, Cottonwood employees will be divorced from the testing process or the documentation of the test results. Cottonwood employees will only collect the samples. All testing, dating back seven months now, is done by two different independent labs in Phoenix, and those labs report the results to the appropriate regulatory agencies.

There is no excuse for the malpractice that existed among city employees in the reporting of water quality samples to the state.

To the city’s credit, though, this problem was resolved months ago.

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