While local environmental activists have been opposing development of Marana’s Lazy K gated community of 178 half-million-dollar homes because of impacts on nearby Saguaro National Park, on wildlife, on declining groundwater supplies, and on the need for open space, the biggest environmental issue wasn’t even on the table. The Lazy K groundwater aquifer is chemically contaminated.
So is the water for existing Marana communities including Saguaro Bloom, Continental Reserve, Happy Acres, La Puerta del Norte, Milligan’s Acres. Ironwood Reserve and Sunset Ranch Estates – a total of 2700 households. That is more than one-third of Marana’s water users.
The chemicals polluting the aquifer are 1,4 dioxane, which the US Environmental Protection Agency says is “likely” to cause cancer in humans with long-term use, and polyfluoralkyls known as PFOA, PFOS and PFAS, which have been linked by the EPA to cancer, thyroid disorders, low birth weights and increased cholesterol levels.
Marana Mayor Ed Honea, is quoted in the media as blaming Davis Monthan Air Base for dumping the pollutants into Tucson sewers which end up in the Santa Cruz River, and in Marana’s aquifer. But, Honea says, “There are contaminants in all water” and he drinks it.
Rezoning and development of the upscale Lazy K homes on the 138-acre site of the old ranch was approved by a 4 – 2 vote by the Marana Town Council in May, 2017. They knew about the contamination at that time, but the official staff rezoning report never mentioned it. Voting Yes were Mayor Ed Honea, Vice Mayor Jon Post, with Council members Roxanne Ziegler and David Bowen. Voting No were Carol McGorray and Patti Comerford. Herb Kai was absent.
Now officials are scrambling to get a $15 million treatment plan in place by October for the Town Council’s approval, but it will be 18 – 20 months before treatment can actually begin. In the meantime Saguaro Bloom, building on the contaminated site, is still selling homes. They are also requiring buyers to sign “hold harmless” agreements freeing the builder, D.R. Horton, from any health or safety liability now or in the future.
Pulte, the other major builder, refused comment to local reporters. Earlier, a Pulte spokesperson told reporters that they look at water capacity and not water quality. Two other builders, Mattany and Meritage, pulled out of Lazy K last year.
The Town of Marana’s unconcern with contaminated drinking water dates long before Lazy K. In 2008 a new landfill was approved right next to the rural community of Silverbell West. Marana annexed only the landfill land, sold to the developer by Councilman/Vice-Mayor Herb Kai, leaving neighbors with no vote and voices that could be ignored. That strategy came from landfill lobbyist Michael Racy, who is also Pima County’s official lobbyist, reporting directly to Pima County Administrator Charles Huckelberry.
The developers Racy represented had connections to Waste Management in the Northeast where a number of local companies were run by identified gangsters. The lead spokesperson for the dump admitted to having dealt with the mob when confronted by research made public by Silverbell West supporters, and the landfill is now, in fact, a Waste Management-owned and run facility.
Ignoring the demonstrated dangers of contamination from leachate — liquefied garbage — and the inadequacy of proposed safeguards, Racy and Company came uninvited to a Dove Mountain meeting called by resident and 17-year Town Council Member Carol McGorray. There Racy resorted to name-calling and old-fashioned red-baiting to attack the opposition. McGorray, who died in March, 2018, at the age of 77, was the only Town of Marana official who stood up to the dump and voted No.
This is the same Marana officialdom which supports building Interstate 11 through the Avra Valley to send jobs to Mexico while destroying communities and wildlands with noise, air and light pollution. They were all re-elected last month.