Disclaimer: None of the information contained on this page should be considered “Official” Even though I do serve on the School Board and on the Water Board, this is being written from a private citizen’s position. A serving Board member on any board can only act or comment officially when at least three board members are present. ~Gary Saiter
(To view the agenda for the March 23rd, 2017 meeting and the Draft minutes from the February 16, 2017 meeting click here: (March 23 Board Meeting-Draft Minutes)
(To view the agenda for the February 16, 2017 meeting click here: (february-16-2017-agenda-board-meeting)
(To view the draft minutes from the regular Board meeting of January 19, 2017 click here: regular-board-meeting-minutes-1-19-17-draft )
(To view the agenda for the December 15th regular meeting click here: dec-15-16-agenda-11-17-16-minutes-1 )
(To view the draft minutes of the 11-17-16 meeting click here: november-17-minutes )
The 11-3-16 meeting has been cancelled. The next regular meeting is scheduled for 11-17-16.
(To view the draft minutes from the 10-20-16 Board Meeting and the agenda for the 11-3-16 Special Meeting click here: special-meeting-11-3-draft-minutes-10-20 )
(To view the draft minutes from the 10-6-16 Board Meeting click here: draft-minutes-of-10-6-16 To view the agenda for the 10-20-16 Board Meeting click here: agenda-10-20-16)
(To view the draft minutes from the 9-22-16 Board Meeting and Agenda for 10-6-16 meeting click here: agenda-10-6-16-draft-minutes-9-22-16 )
(To view the draft minutes from the 9-15-16 Board Meeting click here: draft-minutes-of-9-15-16)
Who said there can’t be intrigue, crime and politics in small town rural America!
Well, you need look no further than Wenden Water Improvement District. Today, and for many years prior, there has been issues connected with the way the District has been managed (mismanaged) and the fact that the water provided to the community has consistently been high in fluoride, arsenic and now, nitrates.
It is not my intention to bring up all the sordid past of the district but to provide some information on where we are, how we got here and hopefully some information about how we continue forward.
The fluoride levels of our water have consistently been in excess of the state standards. Our state has not kept up with the changes in the Federal EPA standards, but several years ago the EPA set the standard for fluoride in drinking water at .7 parts per million, down from 4.0. Wenden water, on the most recent testing, show 2.8 parts per million of fluoride. Over the past couple of years testing has shown levels as high as 7 parts per million. I made the comment about the state and the Federal EPA because the state does not call for a public notice or remediation until it reaches 4 parts per million which it considers as unsafe. This has happened on numerous occasions in the past several decades.
In all fairness, the water available in much of the country has high fluoride levels, but most communities have ways of monitoring this and controlling the levels. The Wenden Water Governing Board has been targeted unfairly for the blame of fluoride levels; they cannot govern natural presence of fluoride. The Board’s negligence lies in not taking action to correct levels for healthy consumption. I will share more information about this issue in the discussion regarding management.
For more information regarding the potential health risks of excess amounts of fluoride in drinking water click on this link: American Cancer Society
Inorganic arsenic in drinking water can be a serious health hazard. Arsenic is such a dangerous contaminate that as little as a few drops of it in an Olympic sized pool is enough to cause health problems. For additional information about the health hazard of arsenic click on this link: World Health Organization. The Federal EPA lowered the maximum allowable limits of arsenic in drinking water to 10 part per billion in 2001. The state of Arizona has since also adapted that level.
The most current testing indicated that Wenden’s water showed 11 parts per billion and over the past few years the water tested as high as 14 parts per billion.
Despite the fact that the levels have been over the maximum amount allowed for years, only now has Arizona’s Department of Environmental Quality has mandated Wenden Water Improvement District to install a system to reduce the arsenic in its water.
Request for bids for a arsenic removal system were sent out with a due date of 6/2/16 and grant money has been committed; however at this time, no installation of a system has taken place.
Over the past few years, nitrate levels in Wenden’s water system have been rising in increasing amounts. Research and findings suggests the increase of nitrates may be contributed by the farming activity in McMullen Valley. Nitrate contamination is difficult to control in areas of heavy agriculture and is almost inevitable. At this time, Wenden water does not test above the state standards for nitrates…yet. This is the time to increase awareness and share health concerns. Infants are at greatest risk and could develop a rare condition called “Blue Baby Syndrome”. For more information click this link: Water Research Center
The state maximum for nitrates in drinking water is 10 parts per million and Wenden’s water tests from 3.3 to 3.8 parts per million. Presently not an immediate problem; but nitrates warrant constant monitoring. The water department in Wenden is, by law, required to regularly test the water for contaminates including nitrates.
There is a relatively easy way to remove all of the above contaminates from the water; install a reverse osmosis water filter system in your home. While this does not let the District off the hook in its responsibility to deliver health water to the residents of Wenden, it is at least a solution for some. Understandably, not everyone in Wenden can afford such a purchase. A system for a single facet runs about $250 and up plus installation.
In order to understand the present situation of the District, it is good to understand the history. Here are some highlights to bring you up to speed..
- Prior to May of 1959, the school owned the current water district and granted the property and the rights, in order to form a Water District.
- October of 1981, the Yuma County Supervisors created the Wenden Domestic Water Improvement District.
- In 1983 La Paz County was formed from parts of Yuma County.
- In that same year, the Wenden County Improvement District was formed and controlled by La Paz County.
- In 2005, the Wenden Domestic Water Improvement District was formed by La Paz County, the old Wenden County Improvement District was dissolved and the new Improvement District was turned over to a Governing Board.
- During most of this time, there was a local Governing Board but it essentially answered to the County Board of Supervisors.
- In 2004, prior to the District being formed as Domestic Water Improvement District , the County threatened to take control of the District due to mismanagement and missing funds. It was discovered in late in 2003, early 2004, that the proper legal work had not been done to allow for local control. That was taken care of in 2005.
When the County threatened to take over the District, operations were in serious disarray plus the water was essentially not drinkable.
Once issues were cleaned up, the District qualified for grants and loans to update the facility and to attempt to improve the quality of the drinking water. In May of 2005, the District received grants and loans in the amount of $1,480,000 by the United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development. Follow this link to read the announcement in the Parker Pioneer: Wenden Water District Gets Grant $479,000 of that money came through NAFTA because Wenden then qualified as a “Colonia”. the money was to accomplish the following:
- Drill the wells deeper to levels in the aquifer where the fluoride levels were lower. Consulting hydrologists expressed 90% confidence that there were levels that contained less fluoride.
- Replace the malfunctioning electrical system.
- Add an additional 250,000 gallon storage tank to bring the District up to AZ fire code standards.
- Upgrade the electrical generator back up system to ensure water even when the power went down.
- Construct an arsenic removal plan.
So what happened?
The electrical system was updated and Well number 1, which was drilled in the 60’s by the railroad, was deepened. The system has two wells, the other was drilled sometime in the 80′. I make this process sound easy but in fact it was a difficult and complicated process; but in the end the well was drilled to a level that contained much less fluoride. Then everything stopped. The individual who was the driving force behind this project moved from town for family and health reasons, a new Board came in with no institutional knowledge and things were dropped. This was very unfortunate because the town could have had good drinking water today if things had continued. The balance of the money was never accessed.
The District began to suffer financial and maintenance issues; which had been previously corrected. Fast forward to a couple of years ago.
A new grant was applied for by yet another new board and it was awarded. The grant was to drill Well number 2 to the same depth as Well number 1 was to allow it to also access a water level that contained less fluoride. Despite some problems including some concern about a potential conflict of interest with a Board member, that project was completed and was successful. The drilling brought the fluoride levels in the water down the current approximately 2.7 parts per million which is within the State guidelines even though it exceeds the Federal EPA limits of .7 parts per million.
Within the past year or two, the State was concerned about the arsenic levels, which exceeded the State maximum levels. The State and the District entered into a consent order which is essentially the State demanding that the District fix the arsenic levels. The arsenic removal plant was to have been completed and up and running in September of 2016 but construction work has not yet been started even though some engineering work has been done.
Today, there are many financial and infrastructure problems that need to be solved as well as getting the arsenic plant back on track. Over the past two months, many residents have seen some of the infrastructure problems as four large leaks. It took over eight weeks to repair. Additionally, a previously fixed water main leak caused major problems including leaving the storage tank drained.
It has been stated, that part of the reason for the delay in fixing the leaks was due to not having materials for repairs and not having tools to properly execute the repairs. Since the District has been operating for a number of years, one wonders what happened to all the equipment and tools. Yet another problem to be solved.
The new Board has it’s work cut out for it! We will continue to post information about their progress here as it becomes available.