Tucson gets nearly $17M windfall from Air Force

Tucson gets nearly $17M windfall from Air Force

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - After five years of negotiations, Tucson and the Air Force have agreed on payment for a water treatment plant at West Irvington Road and I-19.

The Air Force will pay $16,997,760 towards the facility which cleans 1,4-Dioxane out of Tucson's drinking water.

Dioxane is known to cause liver, kidney and nerve damage. The EPA also lists it as a potential carcinogen.

The city and Tucson Water built the plant four years ago without knowing if the cost would be reimbursed.

The EPA had just released new standards for Dioxane in drinking water and Tucson did not meet those standards.

Dioxane is a compound which is found in Trichloroethylene, or TCE, which is a solvent used to clean airplane parts, among other uses.

It was used by Air Force contractors near the airport for nearly 30 years before it was stopped in the early 1970s.

The chemical was dumped in nearby washes where it leeched into Tucson's groundwater, contaminating it.

In the agreement, the Air Force assumes 90 percent of the responsibility for the contamination. The city will decide whether to try to get reimbursement on the other 10 percent from different sources.

How the money will be split by the city is still being discussed.

City Manager Mike Ortega has suggested a 50-50 split between the city, which would go in the general fund, and Tucson Water.

Tucson Water will continue to operate and maintain the site until the EPA says it can close.

In the meantime, in the next phase, the city will attempt to be paid for those costs as well.

The settlement has come as pleasant surprise.

A memo released by the city manager's office states, "It presents an opportunity to recover expenditures that it was far from certain could ever be obtained."

But according to Tucson Water spokesman Fernando Molina, who says talks started before the facility was built, clean water was the first priority.

"I think there was no question we had to do something," he said. "This was something that we were not going to allow to happen, that is to deliver water that does not meet the standard and health requirement."

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