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Sun, May 19

ADEQ to distribute bottled water today

CHINO VALLEY ­ Beginning today, a Prescott-based bottled water company will distribute safe, potable drinking water to the residents of Yavapai Estates and Antelope Valley Apartments in Chino Valley as well as to the nearby Bonn Fire restaurant, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality director Steve Owens said late Friday afternoon.

ADEQ has bought enough water from Sparkletts Bottled Waters in Prescott to provide all 200 to 250 household units affected by an arsenic problem with purified water.

Owens said each household will receive 12 gallons of water, which should be enough to get residents through the holidays. If anyone needs more water, Owens said that Sparkletts will distribute what's necessary and return Tuesday with another shipment.

"People can rest assured that we will provide water to those who need it," Owens said.

Wilhoit Water Co., a private company that has been supplying water to this community for years, has had no direct communications with ADEQ to rectify the problem, Owens said.

Although owner Robert Conlin has not publicly commented about the ADEQ's report showing high levels of arsenic in his wells that serve some residents here, he sent a letter through the mail to those living in the Yavapai Estates subdivision.

"Our staff has tried to communicate with Wilhoit Water Co. regarding the order (to provide safe drinking water to residents), but no one answers the phone," said Owens, whose department is using emergency money to pay for the water.

However, staff at the Arizona Corporation Commission and the Town of Chino Valley reported to ADEQ that they have spoken with Conlin, who has expressed an intention to comply with the order and issue bottled water. Owens said that as a precaution ADEQ has moved forward with handing out bottled water to citizens.

"It's better to have too much water than none at all," Owens said.

Those who are in need of water but did not receive it can call ADEQ at 602-771-4644 for help.

On Tuesday, the ADEQ advised those living in Yavapai Estates, south of Road 3 South and east of Highway 89, and Antelope Valley Apartments, 1555 S. Highway 89, to find an alternative water source, such as bottled water, for drinking and cooking.

In late October ADEQ determined that Wilhoit Water Co.-Yavapai Estates was issuing water from its Chino well with arsenic levels of 316 parts per billion, slightly more than 30 times higher than the federal government's standard of 10 ppb for drinking water.

In his letter to residents, which Conlin personally signed, he lists nine "facts about your water that the ADEQ may have left out" to defend his position.

Conlin said his customers are receiving water from the same wells his company has pumped from for the past 35 to 40 years.

"We know of no one who has become ill as a result of drinking the water," Conlin wrote to the residents. "Arsenic levels (in wells) do change periodically." He added that his company's tests for arsenic have not always reflected the same amounts through the years.

Conlin said Wilhoit Water Co. is trying to find ways of correcting the problem.

"A plant to eliminate arsenic costs up to $50,000, which we do not have," Conlin wrote.

This past Wednesday, ADEQ ordered Conlin's company to provide safe, potable drinking water to its customers by the end of the week.

"If anyone deemed to be in a special, more at-risk age group is unable financially to purchase drinking water from a retail source, we will personally try to help them," Conlin wrote. "Such water is available at almost all grocery stores."

Chino Valley Town Manager Bill Pupo said Friday that the town has attempted to negotiate a deal with Conlin to buy Wilhoit Water Co., but the negotiations remain a work in progress.

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