Balsz school board rejects Superfund pipeline on Brunson-Lee campus

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Despite assurances of safety from state and federal officials, a Phoenix school board voted unanimously Tuesday night against a plan to build a pipeline on the campus of an elementary school that would have transported treated wastewater.

The pipeline would have aided in the cleanup of the Motorola 52nd Street Superfund Site, where in 1982 toxic chemicals began leaking underground.

Freescale, the company that now runs the plant and oversees the site cleanup, had offered to pay the Balsz School District $20,000 a year in exchange for building the pipe at Brunson-Lee Elementary School.

That number fell flat with many parents and community members who vocally opposed the pipeline.

"That's not a price for our kids' health," said Ellie Thompson, whose daughter attends Brunson-Lee.

Thompson and other community members said they were concerned about the potential of carcinogenic toxins leaking from the pipe.

However, Freescale promised the water would be treated at its plant before being pushed through a pipe to a nearby canal.

"It's important to note that the proposed pipeline will transport clean, treated water and will be appropriately buried underground," Rob Hately of Freescale wrote in an email to 3TV. "We have 20 years of operations at this facility under the oversight of the ADEQ and EPA and have been in full compliance the entire time."

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality gave the green light for the pipeline.

Communications Director Mark Shaffer said the pipeline is "vital" to the Superfund Site cleanup and said because the water running though the pipe would be treated and clean, it would be safe. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concurred.

"EPA agrees with ADEQ that the treated water meets EPA drinking water standards and therefore is considered safe," an EPA representative wrote in an email to 3TV.

Ultimately, however, the five members of the Balsz Governing Board and the district superintendent voted against the pipeline.

"The trust in our community is very important to us," Superintendent Jeff Smith said.

Freescale had no comment on the vote.