In a study garnering national attention for the significance it will have on the usage of recycled water, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported to the Maricopa City Council Sept. 18 that the use of reclaimed water at Pacana Park has not posed significant health risks to the public.
According to Jean McLain, the USDA representative from the local Maricopa office that is heading the study, the levels of E. coli bacteria found in the water and soil at Pacana Park are of barely traceable levels and do not pose any health threat to the community.
“These amounts are of no concern whatsoever,” said McLain, who told council members the levels detected were below those that would be found in a naturally forested wilderness area. Not all E. coli strands are harmful to humans – in fact only about 12 of 3,000 strands contain a virulence gene that indicates a harmful nature. “Not a single virulence gene (in the E. coli) has been found to date at Pacana Park. That’s very good news.”
The testing project has been ongoing for more than a year, with the USDA scientists taking samples from the water at Pacana Lake and soil from the park every two to four weeks and measuring it for E. coli and Salmonella.
The Salmonella levels at first of some concern to the USDA, registering higher than what they would have expected. While measurements of the fecal matter found at the park contributing to the Salmonella levels found that 5 percent were that of humans or dogs, McLain believes the Salmonella levels have been increased by excrete from both birds and fish. The Salmonella levels, she said, are not of a harmful nature to humans or their pets.
“Public health is a concern and we need more of these studies to show whether the use of recycled water is safe or not,” McLain said. “So far our results do tell us that Global (Water) is producing very high-quality recycled water.”
The USDA wants to test further how the recycled water stacks up against regular groundwater in terms of bacteria present. To that end, the USDA is partnering with Global Water to construct a 3-acre testing facility which will have groundwater and reclaimed water piped in separately, to have the effects of each measured on turf and various plant life.
Site for airport could be selected by January
Maricopa Aviation Consultant and America West Airlines Founder Ed Beauvais presented results of the initial portion of the airport feasibility study, telling councilmembers the Coffman & Associates study indicated Maricopa was ripe for the possibility of adding an airport.
“It is feasible and there is a need for it... to accommodate aircraft as big as a 737,” Beauvais told the council. “Most of the (airport traffic) would be from Northern Pinal County but if we can have effective access to Loop 202, then a significant amount of support will come from Maricopa County.”
The impact of the airport, Beauvais said, would be $50 million per year, not including what surrounding industrial parks could bring to the city. The estimated cost of building a dual-runway airport is $72 million, with most of that money coming from the state and federal government, leaving Maricopa’s part of the check at just under $2 million.
The council unanimously approved the findings of the study and instructed Beauvais to move his team forward to the site selection phase. The airline guru said several sites would be ready for presentation to the council by the end of the year. Once the councilmembers settles on a site, a year-long master planning process will ensue, which will include getting proper requirements met from the Federal Aviation Administration.