Poisoning Prescott

In the latest development in the Prescott Jail story, on Friday afternoon,  the legislative office of Representative Noel Campbell, issued a Press Release expressing “serious concerns”  about “potentially dangerous”   environmental and health issues at the proposed jail site.  Prior uses of the construction area include a lumber mill,  an auto repair and commercial truck parking facility,  an electric substation, and a shooting range.  All of these activities involve the use of  toxic chemicals and known carcinogens that have leached into the soil.  Rep. Campbell’s concern is that unless  the area is properly remediated,  they present a  potential health risk to correctional officers, construction workers,  inmates, and other  staff  who might work at the  proposed jail facility. “A jail is a residential facility”,  Campbell notes.  “Employees and inmates will have prolonged exposure to whatever health risks may be present.”

In an October 15th letter to Mr. Misael Cabrera,  Director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ),  Rep.  Campbell cites numerous letters from constituents expressing concern about the adequacy of the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment conducted for the new proposed jail site. Campbell’s letter references a recent study conducted by a private  environmental engineer who has  identified  numerous inadequacies and unanswered  questions in the environmental site assessment on which the county relied  in approving  the jail project.  Copies of both Campbell’s letter  and the attachment itself were  furnished to Prescott eNews and have been  reviewed in connection with the preparation of this article.  They are reprinted  below.

In his  letter, Campbell states that he has been “besieged”  with constituent letters and phone calls expressing alarm at the lack of transparency  in the approval process and “the speed at which the county  is moving  forward with the project before all questions have been clearly and honestly answered.”  The letter refers to the construction site as a “brownfield adjacent to an unmonitored landfill.”   There is no known history  of environmental remediation.  Disturbing the site by bulldozing the soil and digging a foundation for a massive concrete and steel jail structure creates a risk of rupturing underground storage tanks and the possibility of chemical contaminates and gases leaching into Prescott’s groundwater supply.

Critics of the proposed jail have noted that Prescott markets itself as a retirement community and a tourist destination.  One of our most important selling points is a healthy environment.  Jail opponents are asking why the County Board of Supervisors is putting this at risk by building on a brownfield?  Until we know  definitively that building on this location is safe,  the  county is proceeding at their own risk.

Campbell notes that at  full build out with 600 beds, the jail will have hundreds of employees.  Many hundreds of inmates will cycle thru  the facility every year.  The potential liability for anyone affected by the once toxic site will be an open and shut case.  Campbell suggests that “even if the risk was low,  the potential liability is so great I  firmly believe that no one in the private  sector would touch this site.”    Any potential liability would be borne by county taxpayers.  But now that the environmental risks are known,  it is possible that the  county Board of Supervisors  could be stripped of the qualified immunity  government officials normally enjoy for decisions made in good faith.  The law provides  that if a government official knows something is wrong and they do it anyway,  they may be held personally liable.

Representative Campbell’s press release was issued late Friday afternoon and too late for  county officials to respond.  Prescott eNews will update readers as the story unfolds.

Rep. Noel Campbell’s letter and Attachment A is reprinted here: Letter and Attachment

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4 thoughts on “Poisoning Prescott”

  1. louis maraccini

    I would be more concerned about the inadequate basic medical attention inmates receive in Y.C. custody such as I have both wittnessed and experienced. Please don’t persuade me with what might happen…do something about the current tragedy then the perceived one if you want my vote.
    You are welcome to respond.

  2. Our representatives represent themselves. Brown, a California transplant and involved with penal systems in Cali, knew full well he voted in favor of this jail project and against his constituents. Think about that and let it sink in. Our representatives do what they want when they want. We need to look a tighter constraints on growth, not what the supposed representatives think we want. We hired them – let’s fire them

  3. Another take away is the county is responsible for furnishing the data sampling to the ADEQ. Given this is a KNOWN brownfield (a contaminated industrial site), the data sampling must be taken during different times of the year and over several years. This is to give both: (1) the most accurate read of the contaminates, and (2) how to remediate the site.
    Bottom line no one with two functioning neurons would build “living quarters” on top of a brownfield (next to an unmonitored landfill).

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