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Old Verde Water Treatment Plant in SRPMIC to Be Demolished

City of Phoenix Water Services Department Project Manager Rick Shane (second from left) guides a tour of the old Verde Water Treatment Plant in early July. The plant is set to be demolished this year.

Tucked away on the eastern edge of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, near the sacred Red Mountain and the Tonto National Forest, sits a lifeless building complex that once flowed with millions of gallons of water.

The almost 70-year-old Verde Water Treatment Plant lies off of Fort McDowell Road, near where the Verde River flows into the Salt River and north of the Granite Reef Diversion Dam.

Built in 1948, the plant was expanded twice over the years and grew from four acres to 27 acres. The plant includes a water tower, a chemical building, filter plant and settling beds. On-site residential housing also was built for the plant workers. It served the City of Phoenix for decades but was shut down in 2011 as Phoenix leaders found other, cheaper options.

Construction of the plant did not pass without controversy. According to a City of Phoenix report, SRPMIC leaders accused the city of trespassing on tribal land and building the plant without permission from the Community. The City of Phoenix countered that it had conferred with the federal government about the project in 1947. Later, SRPMIC and the city came to a lease agreement.

Now, more than six years since treated water flowed from the plant, preparations are being made for the complex to be demolished and the site restored to its natural, pre-development condition.

The plan has already received recognition. In June, the demolition project received the Envision Platinum sustainable infrastructure award from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, according to its website (sustainableinfrastructure.org). The award recognizes sustainable infrastructure projects across the full range of environment, social and economic impacts.

A hard date for start of the demolition has not yet been announced, or an estimate of how long the cleanup will take once it’s started, but the project could begin later this year. Inside the plant, old piping and equipment remains, including a control center. One of the buildings even has an old elevator shaft. The City of Phoenix, which owns the plant, is still taking requests from area businesses or organizations who may want to come in and look at the equipment, which they may take at no charge.

Although the plant is on Community land, treated water from the Verde River did not flow to homes in the Community; almost all of it went to Phoenix.

Access to the site is limited; a fence surrounds the complex, and security patrols are on duty 24 hours a day.

Soon, it will all be gone and the Verde Water Treatment Plant will be found only in Phoenix history books.

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