Ariz. environmental officials to investigate San Tan water

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. --  Ponds in San Tan Valley are being drained after they were mistakenly filled with water only slightly cleaner than raw sewage.

At least two of the ponds flank the entrance to a development and are meant to be a welcoming water feature. This week, they have had the opposite effect.

"I can't even jog through there anymore. It makes you gag," nearby resident Heather Bartlett said.

Johnson Utilities, which manages the water, blames the problem on a power outage at its water plant.  

Spokesman Greg Brown said the process which cleans the sewage into effluent was interrupted.   He blames the strong odor on bacteria in the water, which are used in the initial stages of the purification process.

Brown said lack of oxygen in the dirty water killed the fish in the ponds.

The company has crews draining the ponds and plans to chlorinate new water in order to kill the bacteria and odor.

Officials with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality are heading to the scene along the Hunt Highway on Wednesday to investigate.

The state has found Johnson Utilities in violation of regulations in the past, most notably in 2008 during a spill at the Pecan Water Reclamation Plant.

More recently, Johnson's customers dealt with an E. coli scare in their drinking water, which lasted several days.