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$25M for Tucson Water will help with PFAS treatment, Ducey announces Friday

$25M for Tucson Water will help with PFAS treatment, Ducey announces Friday

  • Pima County

Tucson Water will receive $25 million to remove PFAS from groundwater after Gov. Doug Ducey announced Friday that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality would deliver the funds.

The funding is aimed at improving the PFAs removal efforts of the Tucson Airport Remediation Project, or TARP, a plan to treat contaminated groundwater at wellfields in an area that’s been marked as a federal Superfund site.

PFAS, which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are chemicals used to make a range of products including cookware, sofas and a type of firefighting foam. Tucson and Pima County monitor PFAS levels in water, as it’s linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals, but PFAS continue to be detected in groundwater areas throughout Tucson.

Tucson Water has spent over $30 million to treat PFAS locally and tests all drinking water sources for PFAS across 390 square miles of service area. The city department also turns off contaminated wells and drills new ones in clean areas to avoid PFAS.

Gov. Ducey allocated the $25 million from federal funds for ADEQ and Tucson Water to work together to improve TARP and their efforts to treat groundwater recovered from contaminated welfields near the airport. Those improvements include updating TARP to include processes that have been proven to target and remove PFAS, according to a press release.

Tucson Water Director John Kmiec said that “the new treatment process will allow the original TARP remedy to continue on without the threat of having to turn off the plant because of the inability to treat for PFAS contamination,” according to the press release.

Gov. Ducey said it will help protect Tucson’s water long-term and in the face of continued drought.

“This funding will help Tucson Water secure Tucson’s water supply for future generations,” Ducey said. “Every source of water in Arizona is critical as we face drought conditions and the risk of a drier future.”

ADEQ Director Misael Cabrera and Tucson Mayor Regina Romero both said that they’re “grateful” for the investment from the state level.

We are all too aware of the painful history of water contamination in our region, especially those impacting disadvantaged communities,” Romero said. “I am grateful for this collaboration with Director Cabrera and ADEQ to continue protecting our water security.”

“I am so grateful that the state was able to prioritize this critical project to avoid failure of a Superfund remedy in an environmental justice area of Tucson," Cabrera said.

Tucson Water has run TARP since 1994 to treat groundwater near Tucson International Airport that was contaminated with industrial solvents used during aircraft manufacturing between the 1940s and 1970s.

TARP was originally designed to help contain a plume of water contaminated with TCE and 1,4-Dioxane. The funding announced Friday will also help Tucson Water continue TARP’s original mission of containing that decades-old plume of groundwater contaminated.

Bennito L. Kelty is’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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