State inspection focuses on not just one, but three programs – and all pass with flying colors


(Benson) – It’s always an impressive accomplishment when an Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) inspection focusing on one area of operations at the Apache Generating Station finds no deficiencies.

It’s a lot better than impressive when an inspection focusing on three areas of operations comes to the same conclusion.

“No Deficiencies” was the conclusion July 29 after an ADEQ inspector examined every aspect of three critical systems at Apache station:

  • the Aquifer Protection Permit (APP), covering the entire pond containment infrastructure and onsite landfills
  • the Arizona Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (AZPDES), a multi-sector general permit covering how the facility monitors and prevents pollutants from getting into storm water runoff
  • The Potable Drinking Water System (PDWS), the system of one well and infrastructure that supplies drinking water to the entire facility

Mike Nelson, director of power production, and Chris Determan, senior environmental specialist, were onsite for the inspections. Determan escorted the ADEQ inspector during the inspection.

The APP inspection looks at every aspect of the pond containment system, said Michelle Freeark, director of safety and environmental services.

“The inspection checks whether we’ve had any discharge from the ponds, it looks to make sure the dikes are intact and there are no erosion issues. It looks at the condition of the spillways, whether we’re maintaining the required three-foot freeboard (level of the ponds), and to make sure we’re managing the vegetation,” Freeark said.

The inspection takes in the monitoring wells to ensure sampling data doesn’t show any leakage from the ponds to groundwater, and to make sure the wells are operating as they should.

“They look at the conveyance system to make sure there are no leaks involved with how we sluice everything from the plant to the containment facilities. Every aspect of the operation is inspected,” Freeark said.

Freeark points out there are daily, weekly and monthly inspections by Staff as well as annual inspections by ADEQ and Arizona Department of Water Resources staff.

The PDWS inspection ensures there is a safe source of drinking water throughout the plant, and the inspection look at the well, the pressure tank, all the pipes, the pumps, and the chlorination system. “It’s an overview of everything to make sure we’re operating the drinking water system effectively and safely,” Nelson said.

The AZPDES inspection determines if there are any pollutants leaving the site due to storm water runoff, and that involves an extensive system as well; everything from retention and diversion ditches and channels to drains and pipes that handle runoff, as well as areas where runoff could flow offsite.

“We not only have to make sure we’re not putting any pollutants into storm water runoff, we have to also ensure nothing is impeding the ability of storm water to flow across or off the site,” Determan said.

Of course, no job is finished until the paperwork is done, and in this case the inspection looks at every piece of paperwork to make sure it’s being done correctly.

“This is a tremendous effort put forth by many employees who are committed to being good stewards and who want to ensure our operations have minimal impact on the environment,” said Nelson.

“Having them inspect three separate programs of this scope and magnitude and having no noted deficiencies – that’s significant and something we all should be proud of,” said Freeark.

In addition to Nelson and Determan, who escorted prepped for the inspection and escorted the inspector through the facilities, the following employees are also recognized for their efforts in ensuring a “no deficiencies” inspection: Jerry Ellis, Danny Tapia , Toby Smith, Rick Sherman, Jon Mc Commas, Larry Gill, David Reynolds, Pete Hargis, Keith Jacobs, Bill Wells, Cody Malboeuf and Dan Daggett.