PHOENIX — On the second day of a week-long hearing Tuesday, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality official Trevor Baggiore was questioned at length on Johnson Utilities’ long history of violations.
Arizona Corporation Commission staff went through the long list and verified each sanitary sewer overflow that Johnson Utilities has had since 2015, with a number totaling at least 53. Sanitary sewer overflows are not what one would colloquially call sanitary — they are overflows of raw sewage before it is treated.
Johnson Utilities ranks number two in SSO violations in the state, behind only Phoenix, which as noted in the hearing is much larger than Johnson Utilities.
The hearing is being held in Phoenix through Friday to decide whether the commission needs to appoint an interim manager to run the San Tan Valley water and sewage company. On Monday, they heard testimony from Pinal County, Florence and Queen Creek. George Johnson, the embattled owner of the utility, is scheduled to speak before the commission on Thursday.
There were 19 notices of violations, various record keeping issues, failure to make infrastructure changes put into the record through meticulous examination of ADEQ records during Baggiore’s testimony.
Both the Residential Utility Consumer Office and ACC staff attorneys tried to get Baggiore to take a position on whether or not an interim manager should be appointed, but he remained staunchly neutral during testimony. They also attempted to get him to draw a connection between the utility’s consistent history of violations and management decisions.
“I can’t say what conversations go on behind closed doors,” Baggiore said. “There have clearly been violations that were preventable had appropriate planning and maintenance occurred.”
Baggiore said it was the ACC’s job, not ADEQ’s, to decide on an interim manager position.
“It’s outside the scope of my authority to decide whether an interim manager should be involved,” Baggiore said.