City News

By Chelsea DeWeese
Larson Newspapers

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality released a newly revised draft aquifer protection permit Sept. 28 regarding a proposed wastewater treatment plant near Oak Creek.

State water officials are broadcasting what they call is its highly protective nature.

?In this situation, we are taking extra steps to ensure concerns raised by the public are addressed,? ADEQ Director Steve Owens said. ?We view this as a very important permit.?

The revised draft permit, for the proposed Bella Terra Wastewater Treatment Facility, comes after public comment caused ADEQ to revisit a draft permit issued for the facility

earlier this summer.

?It?s really kind of the totality of the comments to ADEQ that has influenced the agency to ... toughen the standards,? Owens said.

The proposed Bella Terra Wastewater Treatment Facility is planned as a wastewater treatment plant for the Bella Terra on Oak Creek subdivision, which is yet to be built.

The subdivision is approved as a 106-unit development on 53½ acres bordering Oak Creek south of Sedona, off Upper Red Rock Loop Road.

At build-out, the Bella Terra Wastewater Treatment Facility would process 24,910 gallons of domestic wastewater per day.

The treated wastewater, called effluent, would then be disposed of via an underground  drip irrigation system on three separate

?disposal fields? for evapotranspiration.

Initially, the draft aquifer protection permit for the Bella Terra Wastewater Treatment Facility included only one disposal field with a backup, both located near Carrol Canyon Wash on the eastern boundary of the Bella Terra


Carrol Canyon Wash empties directly into Oak Creek, a state-designated ?unique and

scenic? waterway with special

environmental protections.

In addition, three drinking water aquifers, the Oak Creek Alluvial Aquifer at 20 feet, the Supai Aquifer at 150 feet and the Redwall Formation at 300 to 400 feet, are located under the Bella Terra property.

During a public hearing regarding the first draft permit, an overflowing audience turned out to express concern that Oak Creek and the aquifers could potentially become polluted by the effluent disposal field, especially since the ?disposal rate? was high in their opinion, at 0.74 gallons per square foot per day.

Numerous public commentators, including a Northern Arizona University professor brought in by neighboring residents to look into the matter, expressed concern that the disposal field could become super saturated and effluent could seep laterally into Carrol Canyon Wash and then into Oak Creek.

The newly revised draft aquifer protection permit seeks to alleviate those concerns, ADEQ representatives said, by adding two more disposal fields on the property — opposite Carrol Canyon Wash — reducing the overall disposal rate to 0.366 gallons per square foot per day.

In addition, the new permit allows for a ?reuse site,? where effluent can be used to water Bella Terra landscaping, which will use another 10,000 gallons per day, further reducing the

disposal rate, to 0.219.

Other changes to the draft

permit include stricter effluent classification — at A+, the strictest level in the state, considered to be ?drinking water? standard — and the use of ultraviolet instead of chlorination for disinfecting, largely believed to have less health and environmental impact.

Also new, the ADEQ is requiring an on site well that?s continually monitored for nitrate levels to ensure surface water is protected, with a ?toughened? nitrate discharge maximum of 7 milligrams per liter, compared to the standard 8 milligrams per liter.

According to Owens, of ADEQ, this draft aquifer protection permit is ?precedent setting? in terms of having such strong provisions and conditions — especially for such a small-scale facility.

He emphasized his agency does not take the health of nearby residents or of the Oak Creek riparian environment lightly.

?This is the most protective permit for a facility of this size [in the state],? he said.

?These are tough provisions,? Owens continued, ?but they?re certainly provisions the applicant can meet.?

Bella Terra on Oak Creek developer BySynergy can appeal provisions once a final

permitting decision is made.

BySynergy Chief Executive Michael Zito was unavailable for comment Wednesday, Oct. 3.

However, he has so far been publicly supportive of the stricter provisions.

James Gundelach, who works in design and construction for BySynergy, said the newly issued aquifer protection permit takes into account all technical issues raised during previous ADEQ public hearings.

?We?re comfortable with where we?re at,? Gundelach said. ?We feel we?ve addressed all the [public?s] concerns.?

ADEQ senior staff will hold a public information meeting regarding the revised draft aquifer protection permit for the Bella Terra Wastewater Treatment Facility at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1, at the Sedona Red Rock High School campus.

A public commentary meeting will follow.

Following that, a 30-day public comment period will be in effect. ADEQ officials will then review public comments and issue a responsiveness summary.

A final permitting decision is anticipated to be made sometime in late November.

To view the revised draft aquifer protection permit visit or Sedona Public Library, located at

3250 White Bear Road, West Sedona.


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