Johnson Utilities is facing a $100 million lawsuit alleging that it violated numerous water-quality laws, endangering public health and the environment.
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) through the Attorney General’s office filed the civil complaint against Johnson Utilities.
The lawsuit charged the Arizona water company of 57-count violations including sanitary discharges without permit, sewer overflows, overtopping of impoundments, offensive odor, unauthorized modifications, etc.
The ADEQ argued that the actions of Johnson Utilities endangered public health and the environment.
For example, since October 7, 2017 the water company allegedly “released sewage or partially treated sewage that has not completed the treatment process from its Section 11 Wastewater Treatment Plant. The ADEQ claimed that this violation is ongoing.
ADEQ has no other choice but pursue legal action
In a statement, ADEQ Director Misael Cabrera said, “Johnson Utilities has continuously failed to follow through in the normal collaborative process that ADEQ prefers to remedy non-compliance issues.” He added that the water company “has left the Department with no other choice than to pursue legal action.”
According to the Department, Johnson Utilities is the most cited private utility company since 2017. It received almost 300 complaints against the company.
The Department wants the Maricopa County Superior Court to order the water company to pay civil penalty of not more than $25,000 per day for every violation pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes Section 49-262 (C). It is also seeking a civil penalty not to exceed $500 per day for every violation pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes 49-354 (G).
The ADEQ also included Hunt MGT and Ultra Management as defendants in the lawsuit.
Currently, EPCOR USA is temporarily managing the operations of Johnson Utilities. The Arizona Corporation Commission appointed EPCOR as interim manager due to concerns regarding the water company’s billing practices, infrastructure condition and financial management. In 2018, the Commission investigated numerous complaints involving its Section 11 Wastewater Treatment Plant.