As of August 31, it’s been a year since EPCOR stepped in as Interim Manager of Johnson Utilities. Let's take a look at what’s been done since then toward their initial goals for customers.
One of EPCOR's first actions as Interim Manager was to undertake a detailed, thorough analysis of the Johnson Utilities system. The resulting report became the foundation for a three-year, roughly $129 million capital improvement plan that the Arizona Corporation Commission approved this past July.
At the same time, EPCOR went to work with the Johnson Utilities staff on four primary goals for immediate improvements. A year later, they've made great progress on each of these goals:
- Ensuring all drinking water meets or exceeds all drinking water standards. Every month the EPCOR team and Johnson Utilities staff take the necessary steps to make sure water delivered to customers is clean and safe. Legally required annual water quality reports issued in June 2019 reported that all water in the system met or exceeded existing state and federal safety regulations for the test year.
- Putting proper safeguards in place to prevent future sewer overflows. They’ve reduced the incidence of sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) through direct improvements to individual components in the wastewater system. As of September 12, in the last 60-plus days there were no SSOs reported, and the one before that was caused by contractor error, not discrepancies in the system. This is a significant improvement since last August.
- Addressing water pressure concerns. Water pressure issues have greatly improved throughout the service territory, largely as a result of increased water supplies and our efforts to hone in on where problems are originating and correcting them as soon as possible. Where there are continuing concerns with low water pressure, EPCOR is identifying causes and strategizing solutions.
- Ensuring that Johnson Utilities customers get fair and accurate bills. An early step EPCOR took as Interim Manager was auditing the Johnson Utilities billing system and making adjustments to verify that bills are calculated correctly every month. They also provided customer care training and improved back-of-house processes to help reduce customer service wait times.
They’ve also tackled other pressing concerns. Chief among these were water supply for the summer 2019 season, and issues at the Section 11 and Pecan wastewater treatment plants.
Water Supply. By bringing three existing but non-producing wells into production and installing water treatment technologies to make sure the new sources meet safety standards, EPCOR was were able to meet customer demand for water through the extreme heat of the summer. At the same time, they focused on a multi-pronged strategy for developing future supplies as Johnson Utilities’ customer base grows.
Wastewater System. EPCOR worked on several fronts during the year to repair, replace, and/or optimize wastewater treatment collection lines and treatment facilities, with special attention to the Section 11 and Pecan plants. The plants are now performing at closer to their maximum capacity and air quality around them is significantly improved. As they’ve developed the capital improvement plan for the next three years, expansion, repair and/or replacement of wastewater infrastructure are at the top of the list of priorities.
Tthe EPCOR team and Johnson Utility employees have been working alongside every day to bring about these improvements for Johnson Utilities customers. There’s also a great deal of work still needed for long-term service security for the utility. EPCOR is committed to staying the course, and wishes to thank all customers for your cooperation as they do so.
Recent Updates: Water Supply and Quality
The new ion exchange (IX) water treatment technology is proving so effective that EPCOR is now working to purchase a third IX tank to increase treatment capacity at the Main Yard. This will allow them to remove the portable reverse osmosis (RO) system at the Johnson Ranch Well #4 site – although RO has been an effective interim treatment solution, the technology is not water-efficient and should be replaced with a permanent IX system.
The process of adding water supplies in recent months has revealed a previously unknown problem: the booster system needed to move water out to customers is inadequate to handle the increased supplies. In some cases the water distribution pipes are too small, causing an adverse effect on water pressure. EPCOR is currently identifying pipes that need replacing.
EPCOR is also making progress developing the Ellsworth, McRae and Crestfield wells – all existing structures that are at various stages of development to bring into full production. They also continue design work on a new well near the Ricke water plant.
Recent Updates: Wastewater System, Section 11 and Pecan Plant
EPCOR continues to guard against the potential for sanitary sewer overflows at the Main Yard lift station by operating bypass pumps until replacement pumps can be installed. They’ve ordered the replacement pumps and expect them to arrive this month.
At the Section 11 plant, work continues on repair and replacement of damaged and non-functioning infrastructure. Progress is being made and EPCOR is reporting that they are already seeing improvement in the treatment process at this location. The deep zone cleaning project is 75% complete, and there has been a noticeable decrease in odors.
They're also reporting reduced incidents of odors at the Pecan wastewater treatment plant due to modifications to the collection system near this facility. Going forward, they are focused on two goals at Pecan: increasing treatment capacity from 3 million gallons per day (gpd) to 4 million gpd, and rebuilding the headworks.
The headworks are a crucial first element in the wastewater treatment process because they remove solids from incoming wastewater. When EPCOR took over operations of Johnson Utilities, the headworks at Pecan were severely deteriorated. Rebuilding this infrastructure will take approximately 13 months and will significantly improve remaining problems with air quality at the plant.
EPCOR'S Commitment to Johnson Utilities Customers
As they begin their second year as Interim Manager of Johnson Utilities, they want to emphasize again their commitment to transparent communications with customers.
EPCOR thanks all of the customers who attended their fourth public meeting in early September. Going forward, they want to know about any issues you may have with your water or wastewater service. Please call the Customer Care number below, and give them as many details as you can about where and when the problem happened.
How to Epcor:
- 24/7 Bill Payment: 1-844-567-2502
- Online: www.johnsonutilities.com
- Customer service & billing inquiries: 480-987-9870
- Emergencies: 480-987-9870 (press 6) or 480-887-0648