Johnson Utilities' failure to report a sewage spill before asking the Arizona Corporation Commission to expand its coverage area angered members enough they decided to rehear the case.
Commission members voted 3-2 Wednesday to revisit the issue of whether to let the utility expand its service area more than a square mile to three planned developments: Skyline Estates, Quail Run Estates and the J.O. Combs Educational Village. Commissioners approved that move March 3.
Commissioners indicated they don't necessarily want to revoke the expansion but do want to add stipulations about the types of incidents Johnson Utilities is required to report to the commission.
The reason for the desired change stemmed from a Feb. 22 sewer spill in Pinal County's Cambria Ocotillo subdivision.
Two sewer lines in that neighborhood were clogged with grease, causing 9,000 gallons of sewage to back up into two retention basins. The area was cleaned the same day and reported to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
But the utility didn't bring up the spill to the Corporation Commission when they asked for the expansion March 3. Instead, it sent a notice to the commission about the incident March 13.
Since ADEQ closed the case without taking action against the company, Johnson Utilities wasn't required to report it to the commission.
But commission members felt information about a recent spill was relevant and should have been shared.
Commission chairwoman Kris Mayes said the discussion about the expansion centered around previous spills that resulted in violation notices. In fact, part of the expansion agreement was contingent on whether the utility has outstanding violation notices taken care of with ADEQ before the end of the year.
"You guys are like the bad kid that's in detention. Bad kids in detention have to do everything right to get out of detention. You can't keep screwing up," Mayes said. "There's a fundamental lack of trust at this commission with your company when you're not providing information to this commission in a timely matter."
Company attorney Jeffrey Crockett and Johnson Utilities Executive Vice President Brian Tompsett took responsibility for the lack of communication. Tompsett had knowledge of the spill before the March 3 hearing but was at a different meeting that day and hadn't shared the information with Crockett at that point, they said.
"I understand the concern because it wasn't reported at the March 3 open meeting. It should have been," Crockett said. "It was a result of oversight and lack of communication between Mister Tompsett and myself."
Crockett also offered to inform the commission about any other spills that happen over the next year regardless of whether they result in ADEQ notices of violation.
A new hearing hasn't been scheduled yet but will likely occur in the next 45 days, according to Rebecca Wilder, commission spokeswoman.