For nearly a decade, Maricopa County has allowed dangerously potent methane gas to emanate from a Queen Creek garbage dump where town officials plan to begin building a park in spring 2006, a state-issued complaint states.
The complaint, filed Thursday by Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard on behalf of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, contends that Maricopa County has failed to report or clean up 14 instances of unhealthy methane levels at the Queen Creek Landfill since December 1996.
To resolve the issue, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has agreed to a settlement valued at $230,000, which would include at least three "household hazardous waste collection events," Maricopa County Attorney’s Office spokesman Bill FitzGerald said in an e-mail.
"I believe the settlement outlines what has been done, what will be done and what will have to be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again," FitzGerald said. "I don’t know to what degree the situation has been ‘cleaned up’ and I can’t determine any more as of this time."
FitzGerald said the filing of the complaint was necessary to seek court approval for the settlement.
DEQ spokesman Cortland Coleman did not return phone calls Tuesday after initially saying he would provide more information about the complaint, which seeks up to $630,000 in penalties and compliance with air quality standards.
"Maricopa County failed to notify ADEQ of these exceedances," the complaint states. "Maricopa County failed to implement any plan of remediation or abatement."
Queen Creek officials intend to convert the property into a 128-acre park after the landfill is filled and capped. The planned park, known as Horseshoe Park and Equestrian Centre, would include equestrian arenas, bleachers, stables, horse trails, picnic tables, ramadas, parking and open space.
The park’s first, 34-acre phase — to be built on unused land at the landfill’s eastern edge — is expected to cost about $3.7 million. Town Manager Cynthia Seelhammer said Queen Creek hopes to begin construction by May 2006 — before the landfill ceases operation.
Seelhammer said she did not know details of the DEQ complaint but was confident county officials would do their job to monitor and control methane levels once the landfill is transformed into a park.
"I believe they are going to be very diligent," she said.