In a Proactive Step to Save Lives, Tucson Water will Shut Down TARP

In a step not surprising to those familiar with the situation, Tucson Water issued a press release, stating it will shut down the Tucson Airport Remediation Project water treatment facility (TARP) on June 21, 2021, in order to save local residents from being exposed to contaminated (and potentially life-threatening) drinking water.

In the release and the press conference later attended by Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, Interim Assitant City Manager Tim Thomure, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Misael Cabrera, Councilmember Steve Kozachik, and local community leaders, several key points were stressed:

  • No one is in any danger from any current water supply from TARP. 
  • The cause of the closure is the impending increase in the poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the groundwater supplying the plant.
  • This situation does not affect the whole of Tucson. It affects about 60,000 residents.
  • The water supply closed off from TARP will be made up with that from the Central Arizona Project. Even with the current Tier One drought, Tucson should still be able to have all its water supply needs met. During the press conference, Mr. Thomure relayed that only 18 of Tucson’s 200 backup ground wells had dangerous contamination levels and those have been shut down.
  • The closure of TARP is temporary although Assistant City Manager Thomure indicated that could mean years or even a decade until the problem is fixed.

During the press conference, Mayor Romero thanked all stakeholders responsible for ensuring the safety of Tucson’s water.

She, and the local community members, pointed out that water contamination, going back decades, is nothing new for Tucson. Mayor Romero commented:

“This started with the discovery of TCE and 1,4 dioxane that has affected southside communities for the last several decades and continues to impact Tucson families to this day.

Today, we are joined by Tucsonans who have seen this impact directly through family members who live with chronic health conditions, birth defects, and many who have lost their lives due to various forms of cancer.”

On the current situation, Councilmember Kozachik laid the blame for the current PFAS situation on the Department of Defense, the Arizona National Guard, and 3M.

The Mayor went on to say:

“We have stepped up because our top priority is ensuring all city residents and Tucson Water customers have access to safe, clean drinking water.

However, I want to be clear: City of Tucson taxpayers are not responsible for PFAS contamination and should not be left with the tab.

Unfortunately, we have hit a critical moment where we can no longer confidently deliver safe drinking water from TARP due to elevated PFAS levels in the water entering the facility prior to treatment.

When it comes to our drinking water – our most precious resource here in the Sonoran Desert – quality and safety come first, which is why we are taking this proactive step out of an abundance of precaution.

We also must recognize that groundwater contamination and climate change are a one-two punch against our water supplies.

The longer we wait to contain the spread of PFAS contaminants, the less groundwater we have available to serve our families and businesses.”

Ms. Romero then thanked the Tucson Congressional Representation (Senators Sinema and Kelly, Representatives Kirkpatrick, Grijalva, and O’Halleran) for working to secure federal funding to clean up the PFAS contamination.

Please click on the below link and read pages 10 to 11 on the various legislative measures moving through Congress to deal with PFAS contamination.

BTB City of Tucson Federal Report May 14 2021-2 (2)

In a question during the press conference, Mr. Thomure said that Tucson residents have funded $30 million in clean-up so far and that future costs could be well over $100 million.

Both Romero and Thomure also alluded to a back and forth with Environmental Protection Agency bureaucrats the last two years in looking for solutions to the PFAS problem.

Mayor Romero closed by relaying:

“The need for remediation is now. And the need for climate action is now. Time is of the essence in order to contain PFAS contaminants and safeguard our long-term water supply.

Tucson did not cause the pollution, but we are being left to deal with it. That is not fair.”

During the press conference, Mr. Thomure stressed that the Tucson City Council kept the people’s trust by proactively closing TARP and preventing people from drinking unsafe water.

Please click here to watch the press conference in its entirety.

Please click on the below link for further information on the need to shut down the TARP facility and a map of where the infected areas are located.








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1 thought on “In a Proactive Step to Save Lives, Tucson Water will Shut Down TARP”

  1. Any relationship between this PFAS contamination in Tucson water, shut down of assoc. wells, and discussions regarding increasing water rates in unincorporated Pima county, as rates can be raised there without city rate increase?

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