Water Contamination Forces Arizona Department Of Corrections To Change Wells At Douglas Prison

Published: Monday, October 21, 2019 - 10:16pm
Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - 10:52am
Arizona Department of Corrections
Arizona Department of Corrections building in Phoenix.

After inmates in the Douglas prison complained their drinking water was brown and tasted like diesel fuel, the Arizona Department of Corrections has confirmed water at the prison had a “noticeable petroleum odor and taste.”

Spokesman Andrew Wilder said the complex was forced to change water sources.

After a water outage at the prison in June, Cochise County switched to a new well as the source of drinking water for the more than 2,000 people incarcerated at Douglas.

During that outage, the prison supplied inmates with bottled water and used portable toilets and sanitation stations for several days.

Wilder said, “An issue with Cochise County’s new well recently affected water that was delivered to the Douglas prison and other customers. Prison officials notified the County as soon as it was detected.”

“The county took its new well offline and switched back to the older well,” Wilder said.

Wilder said Department of Corrections employees drained the storage tank at Douglas and flushed water lines throughout the complex. “Since then, water has again been running clear and odor free at all units with no additional issues,” Wilder said.

Inmates told their families the water was burning their skin after showers and causing diarrhea.

Wilder said the department and Cochise County are conducted testing at the new well. It was not immediately clear what the long-term plans are for drinking water at the prison.

Arizona Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson Erin Jordan said samples of the water taken before and after the system was flushed "came back negative for coliform and additional results for other potential contaminants are in process at this time."

"The water system operator continues to work with ADEQ to identify what caused the issue," Jordan said. "The new well will not go back online until the issue can be resolved and tests show the water is meeting standards."

Cochise County spokesperson Amanda Baillie said they are still awaiting sample results.

"We have no current timeline regarding when that well will be switched back on," Baillie said. "We are confident that Well #7 is delivering quality water to the prison, as it has done for years, and the County is committed to ensuring that remains the case."

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