Inspectors question whether east side well water is safe

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Inspectors question whether east side well water is safe

CREATED Sep. 13, 2012

Is a private Tucson well contaminating drinking water for others?

Reporter: Tammy Vo

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Driving down the streets of east Tucson, you would probably miss it. A three foot tall concrete well near Tanque Verde and Houghton. But one man has had his eye on it for years.

"It's like an uncontrolled landfill that's fermenting down there and may be making methane gas. I don't know" said Gary Hix, President of the Arizona Water Well Association. The Association is statewide, and keeps an eye on wells to make sure they are up to standards. Hix has been taking photos of the east Tucson well for years, including one photo taken in 2008 which he says  suggests that the bottom of it may extend into the water table. The same water table from which some neighbors draw their drinking water. That's a concern says Hix because the abandoned well shaft is filled with garbage and possibly horse manure. Hix is worried that the well could be  a source of groundwater contamination.

Who lives on the property? Renters, says Hix. No one was home when KGUN 9 knocked on the door on Thursday.

Hix has a paper trail showing that in February, he wrote a letter to the Arizona Department of Water Resources asking them to look into the situation, concerned that the well is in violation. Then, the Arizona Department of Water Resources wrote a letter to the well owner saying that it planned to inspect the well in March. Hix says since then, obviously nothing has changed which is why he called the state Department of Environmental Quality. On Thursday, an inspector responded. He couldn't speak to KGUN on camera but said that it's "the worst he's ever seen."

KGUN 9 spoke to the owner's son by phone. He says that his dad filled the well with dirt and rock years ago, and that it doesn't lead to groundwater. They don't think it's a health concern.

What happens now? ADEQ is trying to determine if the well is a health hazard and if it reaches groundwater. An inspector from the Department of Water Resources did another inspection in March and says that all the trash needs to be cleaned out so that they can see what's at the bottom and whether the well needs to be sealed with concrete. They plan on sending the owner a letter in a week ordering that cleanup.