Arizona DEQ to Spearhead Effort to Protect the Colorado River

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality will coordinate the Clean Colorado River Alliance, a major initiative that brings federal, state and local government officials together with business and community leaders to protect and improve water quality in the Colorado River.

The alliance, which consists of more than 30 leaders from communities along the river and throughout the state, was launched by the governor at a meeting in Bullhead City last April. The governor asked the alliance to develop recommendations to address existing water quality problems in the Colorado River and lay the groundwork for a regional framework for future water quality protection.

"The Colorado River is the lifeblood of Arizona," Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) said. "We are committed to doing everything we can to clean up the river and protect it from contaminants. Director Owens and his staff have the expertise and experience of working through a collaborative process to find solutions to do this job."

In 2004 the Colorado River was named the number one "Most Endangered River" in the country by American Rivers, based on contamination risks affecting the river.

ADEQ Director Steve Owens cited many environmental challenges facing the Colorado River, including contamination from perchlorate, nitrogen, chromium, bacteria, uranium, selenium, sediment and other pollutants.

Owens discussed several initiatives ADEQ is currently implementing to address quality issues in the river, including:

  • Convincing the Department of Energy to move a 12-million-ton pile of uranium tailings near Moab, Utah, away from the river and stopping contaminants from polluting the river.
  • Working with California officials to prevent a plume of hexavalent chromium from the Pacific Gas & Electric facility near Needles, Ariz., from contaminating the river and conducting an investigation to determine whether Arizona groundwater supplies have been affected by the plume.
  • Monitoring levels of perchlorate released into the river from the Kerr-McGee plant near Las Vegas.
  • Preventing further nitrate contamination of the River from sewage disposal.

The CCRA will hold several meetings throughout the summer and fall and will present its recommendations and proposed action plan to the governor in December. Information about the CCRA can be obtained on ADEQ's Web site (http://www.azdeq.gov/index.html).

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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