Miranda Pops Up Again In Pima Wastewater

"Over the past two weeks, Tres Rios has failed its weekly E. coli permit requirements. It appears that over some extended period of time, parts of the process have gotten out of control and the biology associated with these processes shifted to an undesirable condition."

Nearly every single month, Pima County has been forced to submit standards violation reports to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, but it it isn’t the ground water that is causing a foul smell say area residents; it is the County’s hiring of former City Manager and Tucson Police Chief Richard Miranda.

Repeated requests for information about the hiring were ignored by the County’s crack PR team, led by Mark Evans. Finally we were  able to learn that Antonio Vereen, whose last day of work was November 13, 2015, was replaced by Miranda on February 17, 2016.

Miranda’s the man

Miranda will earn an annual salary of $60,320.00 in the non-supervisory security position. According to the County, the position was open for a mere two weeks. Miraculously only 13 applicants applied for the position in an area of the country with some of the highest unemployment and underemployment rates. Only 8 applicants were certified as qualified and miraculously out of those 8, Miranda, a double-dipper, was the top pick.

View Job Description 4232 – Program Manager – Senior (Special Assistance Office Sr Program Manager) here

Miranda joined the Tucson Police Department in 1975. Miranda became police chief in October 1998. He retired from the Police Department in 2008 at the age of 55. According to the Arizona Republic, Miranda benefited from pension spiking upon retirement by selling back unused sick leave. He received a $511,570 payment from the Deferred Retirement Option Plan.

Miranda was also made interim Tucson City manager when former city manager Mike Letcher was fired. The Tucson City Council claimed that they wanted to conduct a national search. However, it was widely understood that Miranda had the job. At the time, Mike Rankin, the City’s attorney said 25 people applied for the job. He did not say if interviews were conducted.

Miranda was hired as the permanent Tucson City Manager in May 2012 and was named by Parade magazine as one of the highest paid persons in Tucson, excluding his pension. He was paid $202,000 a year, plus his pension from the police force to the tune of $135,887 a year.

Miranda remained as the city manager for one and a half years to be eligible to receive a second annual pension of $22,837.

Many wonder if Miranda’s nearly $159,000 pension is in jeopardy due to the City of Tucson’s financial position, thus forcing him to seek employment with Pima County.

Incompetence rules the day

According to documents obtained from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and Pima County Wastewater, the Department has been forced to issue 5-day warnings and 30-day reports regarding exceeding the Aquifer Quality Limit at Tres Rios. Most of  the warnings are related to high “Total Nitrogen levels in the groundwater at POC.”

In a memo dated January 26, 2016 John Sherlock, Deputy Director of Treatment was notified by the director of Pima County’s Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department, Jackson Jenkins of his concerns related to the E.coli situation. Jackson begins the memo by noting the “historic issues” in the department. He writes, “You and your team have worked extremely well in the midst of contractor chaos, the start-up challenges, the design flaws, and construction miscues.” Jackson advises Sherlock that he now looks “forward to getting back to the basics of operating our facility in a stable and consistent manner while still maintaining the necessary flexibility to address unplanned breakdowns or process upsets common to any large wastewater utility.”

The memo continues:

Over the past two weeks, Tres Rios has failed its weekly E.coli permit requirements. It appears that over some extended period of time, parts of the process have gotten out of control and the biology associated with these processes shifted to an undesirable condition. In recent months, digester #3 has had sporadic gas production, digester feeding was not consistent and we have barely satisfied the 15-day 503 requirements. The centrate tank for THM control has either run empty or overflowed, digester gas vented when condensate filled the gas lines and the East plant ammonia levels climbed beyond acceptable levels, and increased influent loading to the plant was not responded to in a timely manner by putting the proper number of reactors in service. These issues cause me to believe that we need to redirect our focus and ensure that each person understands their respective roles and responsibilities.

According to Biosolids.com, “Regulations that ensure the safe and responsible management of biosolids have been in effect since the 1970s, and the 503 Biosolids Rule of 1993 “establishes biosolids quality requirements and encourages the beneficial use of biosolids.”

According to a case study by Aqua Metrology Systems, “As volatile organic compounds, THMs can be removed from water through volatilization given sufficient gas transfer opportunities. There are four primary species of THMs; chloroform (CHCl3), bromodichloromethane (CHCl2Br), ibromochloromethane (CHClBr2) and bromoform (CHBr3). Chloroform is the most volatile of the primary THMs and the most prevalent at Tres Rios WRF.”

“In 2007 Pima Country Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department (RWRD) embarked on a $720-million Regional Optimization Plan (ROMP) to improve the quality of their effluent. The ROMP was initiated after the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) ruled ammonia effluent levels were too high from regional treatment facilities. In accordance with federal requirements, the Arizona DEQ set permissible nitrogen and ammonia limits to a range of 8 to 10 milligram per liter (mg/L), and imposed a January 1, 2014 compliance deadline for the Tres Rios Water Reclamation Facility (WRF), formerly known as the Ina Road WRF,” reads the study.

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