SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, ARIZONA MOVES TOWARD SUSTAINABILITY
-By Marshall Magruder -
We are blessed with a wonderful place to live, play, work and have fun. There are several limits to retaining our County. We need clean air, water and land.
Our air has particulate matter, called PM-10, from dust, smoke and diesel exhaust. We are an EPA non-attainment area due to higher than standard PM-10 readings. The new mandated biodiesel fuel and new diesel engines will remove some of these particles with time. We have a dust requirement for new construction and the numbers of unpaved roads slowly are decreasing. Most of the particulates in our county’s air come across the border due to the prevailing winds from the south. There is an EPA bi-lateral commission working on these areas.
We are required to have safe water for humans. The City of Nogales and parts of Rio Rico are connected to the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant in southern Rio Rico. It also is connected to a pipe from Nogales, Sonora, where we receive up to 15 million gallons of water to treat. This plant is undergoing a $60 million upgrade to add more capacity and higher levels of treatment to remove additional contaminants. The effluent from this plant supports nearly continuous water flowing in the Santa Cruz River to the northern part of the County. This clean effluent has restored the cottonwood bosque, now the largest in the United States, along its path. In addition, most new developments are also required to have sewage systems.
We have very little contaminated soil, such as from old gasoline tanks, that is slowly being rehabilitated. Old mine tailings and ponds leach several toxic minerals including lead, arsenic, and mercury into our waters. Only Lake Peña Blanca remains contaminated with lead. None of these now leak into our water supplies, but there is concern about some mines at the southern end of the Santa Rita Mountain range, just north of S.R. 83 and in the old Solaro Mine area where arsenic has been leaching into the soil for over 50-years. Some water supply companies are now non-compliant with the new EPA arsenic levels in water, which changed from 50 ppb to 10 ppb. For example, the American Arizona Water (Tubac) has about 30 ppb and is installing a filtering system to become compliant.
Our recent countywide “dark skies” ordinance, developed in cooperation with the Smithsonian/ University of Harvard Mount Whipple Observatory, was approved and will be implemented. Our light pollution, primarily from lights that shine upward (where there is nothing to see) or are multi-spectral, make extensive background “noise” that interferes with the observatory and many local amateur astronomers here. This ordinance will extend the capabilities of this most valuable scientific organization for decades to come. We are committed to having dark skies here.
Santa Cruz County is the first county in Arizona to add a hybrid car to its fleet of vehicles. The county has received a grant to change out old fluorescent light fixtures and bulbs for newer more energy efficient ones and the new Detention/Judicial Center will be Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.