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State government is footing the bill for Tucson, Marana PFAS cleanups

State government is footing the bill for Tucson, Marana PFAS cleanups

A Tucson Water treatment plant.

Money for the impending Marana and Tucson cleanups of PFAS groundwater contamination will come from the state, but the funding sources for expected future cleanups are unknown at this time.

One state program has given Marana a $16 million loan for its cleanup. Another state program gave the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality $3.3 million for its Tucson cleanup.

In the future, Marana must find another source to pay back the loan.

Also, ADEQ and other agencies must find sources to pay for a complete cleanup of PFAS chemicals in Tucson wells north of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base along with a separate contamination plume on the city’s south side.

Here are some details:

  • Marana took out a $16 million loan in 2018 to build and operate two treatment plants from the State Water Infrastructure Financing Authority. It finances construction of water and wastewater cleanup and treatment projects.
  • ADEQ got the $3.3 million it is spending on analyzing and cleaning up PFAS pollution near D-M from the Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund.

It was created in 1986 with passage of the State Environmental Quality Act, which led to creation of ADEQ. The fund “supports ADEQ in identifying, prioritizing, assessing and resolving the threat of contaminated soil and groundwater sites in the state,” says ADEQ.

For Marana, loan repayment money could come from a lawsuit that the city of Tucson filed — and the town joined — against the 3M company, a manufacturer of PFAS compounds, to get it to pay these entities and others around the U.S. for groundwater cleanup costs.

But “we’re not holding our breath on that,” said Marana Water Director Scott Schladweiler.

Town officials also will consider dipping into the general fund or possibly raising sales tax rates or using some existing sales tax revenues to pay for loan repayment.

One step they won’t take is raising water rates, Schladweiler said.

“This will not be put on the backs of existing (water) customers,” he said.

As for the Tucson cleanup, Mayor Regina Romero wrote Congress last spring, asking for financial help for the cleanup. To date, none has come in, although Congress did pass legislation last year requiring the Defense Department to negotiate for PFAS groundwater cleanups if a state’s governor requests negotiations.

ADEQ director Mishael Cabrera has asked the U.S. Defense Department to help fund it because of the pollution’s proximity to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

“ADEQ has not yet received a response and continues to monitor the situation,” the agency said.

Contact reporter Tony Davis at tdavis@tucson.com or 806-7746. On Twitter@tonydavis987


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Related to this story

  • Updated

Marana will have two treatment plants online to remove contamination from PFAS and another chemical from its drinking water by early February at the latest. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality expects to have a pilot treatment plant in operation by summer 2021 to start cleaning up PFAS-tainted groundwater in Tucson Water's central wellfield, just north of Davis Monthan Air Force Base.

  • Updated

Tucson Water's pumping of PFAS-tainted groundwater into its water treatment plant is one factor, authorities say. But city officials say such spikes of PFAS are not uncommon. They've occurred near Davis-Monthan Air Force Base as well as the south side plant that's on the verge of being shut down.

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