Cleaning up the water

SIGNS at the former Unidynamics facility in Goodyear mark the location as the Phoenix-Goodyear Airport North Superfund Site. View photo by David Weibel
SIGNS at the former Unidynamics facility in Goodyear mark the location as the Phoenix-Goodyear Airport North Superfund Site. View photo by David Weibel
EPS releases new measure to get rid of W. Valley plume

The U.S. Environmental Protection Services recently released its preference for cleaning up contaminated ground water at a designated Superfund Site in Goodyear.

Following the release of its preferred alternative for cleaning up the Phoenix-Goodyear Airport North site, the EPS will be conducting public hearings with a meeting scheduled for Wednesday evening.

The Phoenix Goodyear Airport Superfund Site is composed of the PGA North and PGA South sites.

The contaminated groundwater, commonly referred to as the plume, was caused by the chemical trichloroethylene (TCE) when the former Unidynamics Phoenix Inc. facility dumped its chemical waste into dry wells on its property off Litchfield Road south of Van Buren Street.

Unidynamics was established in 1963 as a research, development, and manufacturing plant for defense and aerospace equipment, according to the EPA. Primary operations included manufacturing rocket propellant, processing and blending powder, assembling ordinance, machining, testing explosives and ballistics. Onsite contaminants included perchlorate (the primary chemical ingredient of solid rocket propellant) and TCE, a cleaning solvent.

TCE and perchlorate are carcinogens, and studies have linked the toxic waste to cancer and having a negative impact on a person’s nervous system.

Both EPA and PGA North officials have said Goodyear does not get its drinking water from the plume.

Goodyear’s water has been under heavy monitoring, and is not presently putting any residents in danger, officials said.

Even though it appears there is no immediate danger, Amanda Pease, community involvement coordinator for the EPA, said the site still needs to be cleaned up.

“It’s still important to clean it up because, you know, obviously water is a scarce resource in the southwest,” she said.

The preferred cleanup option selected by the environmental agency is basically to inject a few types of iron that will break down the chemical component as well as injecting bacteria that will serve the same purpose.

“One of the big reasons why we prefer that alternative is because, you know, we’re using both of those methods together and they are complementary to each other. They both break down the chemicals, but they have different strengths,” Pease said.

The estimated total cost is slightly more than $10 million, with an estimated annual cost of $102,500 for eight years and a $454,650 closure cost.

Crane Co., an industrial parts manufacturer, bought UPI after the area was deemed a Superfund Site a couple of decades ago, assuming full liability for cleanup.

“There was certainly a time when Crane Co. was not as cooperative as they are currently, so that introduced some more delays,” said Jeff Raible, co-chair for the PGA North Community Advancement Group.

He said he mainly attributes the long process of getting the area cleaned up due to the nature of these types of legal processes and to the fact that it is difficult to evaluate the situation.

“I think delays in getting a resolution is a natural thing, but that said, we are at a major junction now where that decision on how to clean up the site is made,” he said.

The city’s drinking water is drawn from aquifers that are deeper than the area known as the plume.

While the drinking water is safe from the plume, the toxic water could potentially leak into the clean water, Raible said.

“There is an ability for the water to leak down in certain places, and so that’s why it’s a concern,” he said.

The EPA is seeking public comment about the proposed solution until Feb. 24. Community members can voice their opinions through written or oral notice.

For more information, and to voice concerns, a public meeting will be held at the Estrella Mountain Community College Conference Center from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5.

Raible said it is important for community members to attend the meeting to be informed.

“Water is a big deal to life. It’s certainly a big deal to us who live in the desert. So we should be concerned about it,” he said.


Charity Yodis can be reached by email at or on Twitter @ckyodis.



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