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Mon, June 17

Wilhoit Water Co. comes to agreement with City of Prescott

CHINO VALLEY ‹ The owners of Wilhoit Water Co.-Yavapai Estates signed an interconnection agreement Friday with the City of Prescott that will soon pump potable water from a city-owned fire hydrant here and into the homes of Chino Valley residents affected by an arsenic problem.

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Kris Mayes said that Wilhoit Water Company's certified operator, Prescott Pump, will do the interconnection and construction work for establishing the safe line, which should be completed next Wednesday.

"We're very pleased that the agreement was signed," Mayes said. "It's the interim solution we were looking for."

The Town of Chino Valley is not party to the agreement between the City of Prescott and the company, which are jointly involved in this matter.

"It's a good, positive first step," Chino Valley Town Manager Bill Pupo said.

While they are waiting to tap into a safe drinking water source, residents of Yavapai Estates and Antelope Valley Apartments can pick up potable water. A-1 Bulk Water Delivery of Prescott Valley is now filling a tank that has a spigot and a hose behind the company's well towers in the neighborhood.

Mayes said that even though the water tank is available, the Arizona Corporation Commission has told the company that it still must deliver bottled water to those who need it.

Before the safe connection can occur, Mayes added, the company has to "blue stake" the ground around the hydrant to ensure that construction crews will not damage any utilities with their digging. Wilhoit Water Co. may have to apply for government permits, too.

"It probably will take a few days, perhaps a week, to engineer the hook-up," Mayes said.

The Corporation Commission, regulator of private water companies in this state, next wants Wilhoit Water Co. to implement long-term arsenic remediation equipment on its system.

David Conlin, who has owned Wilhoit Water Co. with his younger brother, Robert, for the past 25-plus years, said that only within the past year did he learn of the high concentrations of arsenic in his Chino Valley wells. He said that Wilhoit Water Co. has a daily account balance of $500 and that he cannot afford to buy bottled water for every customer affected by the arsenic contamination.

"It would cost us $260 per day to do this," said Conlin, whose younger brother and fellow company owner, Robert, will not comment on the matter. "We sincerely regret that we're not able to supply water and realize that people are righteously angry with us."

The 83-year-old Conlin, whose company is preparing to buy arsenic remediation equipment that would treat his water supply in Chino Valley full-time, said he's grateful to Prescott for its help.

"Yesterday (Thursday) we got a call from the City of Prescott that wouldallow us to tap into its system at a reasonable price," Conlin said. "There's a fire hydrant in front of our property and we will run a line from the hydrant into our tank to get Prescott water directly."

Despite the recent developments, residents of the Yavapai Estates subdivision ‹ who once were drinking and cooking with the water from the company's tainted wells ‹ remain frustrated about the pace for treating the arsenic.

Many of the people who live in the neighborhood, located south of Road 3 South and east of Highway 89, are senior citizens on fixed incomes.

"It's scary," said Dee McKeil, who lives on Piute Place in Yavapai Estates. "A lot of us have got a lot of health problems."

"There's a consistent lack of concern for any of us," Papago Drive resident Claudette Berech added.

Wilhoit Water Co. also serves customers in the town of Wilhoit, but the company has a serviceable well there that does not have an arsenic problem.

Contact the reporter at dcook@prescottaz.com

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