Investigation stemmed from E. coli scare in August
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) on Wednesday issued a notice of violation to Johnson Utilities for the E-coli scare that blew up into a major news story.
On August 16th, routine tests showed a positive bacteria (total coliform) count in 25 of 60 water samples that Johnson Utilities tested. Three of those 25 samples tested positive for E. coli.
Three days later – on Aug. 19 – the utility did new tests. One of the 75 samples still showed positive for bacteria.
ADEQ says Johnson Utilities notified the Florence Unified School District late in the day on Aug. 21, but no public notification was made. The information became public after the company's notification to the school district was reported by local media.
State regulations require water providers to notify all of their customers within 24 hours after a positive re-test. After media exposure became widespread on Aug. 22, the company posted a boil-water notice on its website, issued a news release, and provided bottled water for customers who wanted it. However, those events happened three days after the positive re-test.
In all, ADEQ has issued seven notices of violation to Johnson Utilities, encompassing shortcomings in its public notification as well as deficiencies – characterized as minor maintenance issues such as unlocked structures and gaps in fencing – found by ADEQ inspectors at some Johnson Utilities facilities.
Since then, ADEQ water quality compliance manager Mindi Cross says, Johnson Utilities – which has 20,000 customers – has made steps toward improving its public notification process, including setting up a Twitter feed and a Facebook page.
Late Wednesday, Johnson Utilities issued a statement saying it's been working with ADEQ to make sure things run properly in the future. The statement concludes, "We are confident that after we further explain the course of events to ADEQ, the agency will agree that no sanctions are appropriate. We will be meeting with ADEQ soon to do precisely that."