The Arizona Corporation Commission approved the transfer of an Arizona town's water service on Tuesday from a water company rife with violations to the neighboring Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA). The decision by the commission paves the way for the small town of Sanders, Arizona, to receive non-contaminated drinking water for the first time in more than a decade.
As 12 News reported in an exclusive story last week, the Windsong Water Company that delivers water to the northeastern Arizona town has been found in violation of federally acceptable uranium levels. Documented violations for uranium levels date back to 2003.
Last year homeowners in Sanders were alerted to the problem after researchers Tommy Rock and Chris Shuey held a town meeting to notify the public about water test results. Since then, many water customers have been drinking only bottled water.
Sanders sits in Arizona state jurisdiction but borders the Navajo reservation. The Windsong Water Company and NTUA applied for the transfer of authority of utility assets to the NTUA because it would be too costly for Windsong to find an alternate solution.
"This will provide a long-term sustainable option for the community to get safe drinking water," said Arizona State Senator Carlyle Begay (D) of District 7, who helped coordinate the transfer with the commission.
During the hearing, the owner of Windsong Water Company did not object to the motion.
The transfer of service will not likely take place for up to a year. The NTUA needs to construct a connection line to the Windsong pipeline and replace other existing lines. Once the new water connection is in place, NTUA water rates for customers in Sanders will be almost 50 percent cheaper than current rates.
"We've been able to bring lower priced water that is much cleaner, much better quality to this area and I hope this is the model for the entire Navajo Nation," said Arizona Corporation Commissioner Tom Forese, speaking about Tuesday's vote.