Sun, Feb. 23

Town staff told to stay out of sewer ponds

Camp Verde's General Services Director Bill Lee appears to be in deep doo-doo with local sewer administrators.

It seems Lee and another town employee, Marvin Buckle, wanted a sample of sewer wastewater and decided to go get one. According to Camp Verde Sanitary District officials, the two arrived at the sewer plant on Monday with a drinking bottle in hand and swooped up a sample from one of the sewer plant lagoons. Unfortunately, the seemingly innocent behavior by the twosome got quite a reaction at sewer headquarters.

Apparently they were removing the sample without the aid of preservatives or an iced cooler, did not have the appropriate documents necessary for submission of the sample to a laboratory nor did they have the district's permission.

Before the two could leave, Wendy Ferguson arrived from the district.

Ferguson said Lee indicated he wanted the sample for the town engineer. They were looking at the potential use of the wastewater for effluent water irrigation for Lee's pet project, a regional park.

The sanitary district manager said she pointed out to them the incorrect scientific protocol of their endeavors and after an exchange of some heated words, Ferguson had the water bottle. In a matter of several hours, Ferguson shot off a letter to town hall about the episode and the incident was brought to the town council's attention on Wednesday night.

In a scolding letter to Town Manager John Roberts April 17, Ferguson told Roberts in no uncertain terms that the two town employees were trespassing, that they were violating safety hazard protocol and presented a libelous situation for the district. She urged Roberts to pass the word on to his employees that any future business of this kind must be authorized through the district.

In a further dressing down, the episode was repeated to the Camp Verde Town Council by the district's chairperson, Suzy Burnside. Although Burnside did not name names, she did share Ferguson's letter with the council. Burnside explained the potential liability the district faces, reiterating that the district is not town owned, and that employees of the town do not have permission to speak for or to conduct business on or at sewer facilities.

Roberts told the council and Burnside he didn't appreciate the matter being handled this way, that it was unprofessional and that it was simply a misunderstanding. He asked council to allow him to work the matter out staff-to-staff.

Ironically, even if Lee had been successful in his attempt to take the sewer water and have it tested, it would have all been in vain, according to Ferguson.

In the letter to Roberts, Ferguson explained that "the entire purpose of the sanitary district building a new multi-million dollar facility is to improve the quality of the effluent being released. Right now we are operating the least technical form of treatment, aerated lagoons, and we are not required to disinfect the effluent as would be required in a reuse situation. We already know that data on the product we now produce would reveal that it would not meet any current standards required for reuse and human contact. Therefore any information obtained by sampling our current product would only reveal what we already know, you can't use it on your park."

"I have an open door policy, and all anyone needs to do is walk around the corner to my office and conduct business in a commonly accepted business-like manner, and I will respond in like kind," Ferguson concluded in her letter to Roberts.

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