Tucson Airport to Build Treatment Plant

In the last chapter in a decades-long story, Tucson International Airport will begin building a second treatment plant to remove toxic chemicals from an unused groundwater source at the airport.

The Tucson Airport Authority board on Tuesday voted Tuesday to award the Ashton Co. a $3.5 million contract to construct the cleanup facility on the west ramp of the airport. This is the last portion of land needing to be treated, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The plant, which will be designed to remove chemicals like trichloroethylene, or TCE, is scheduled to begin operations in early 2007, according to TAA spokeswoman Paula Winn.

The plant will treat approximately 108,000 gallons of water and 500 pounds of air each day.

The area in question is a smaller portion of isolated groundwater not attached to an aquifer used for drinking water, Winn said. It will take decades for the contaminated water to be fully cleaned by this facility.

"This is the last checkmark on this very long story," Winn said.

The first water treatment plant was constructed in 1994 at West Irvington Road and Interstate 19.

TCE was found in the wells on the South Side in 1981. The chemical was used as a degreaser on airplanes.

The chemical was found to be the responsibility of several Air Force contractors who worked on the land from 1940-1970, Winn said.

Several residents of the South Side said they have lost family members to various TCE-linked cancers and diseases. Several lawsuits were filed by South Side residents, with the last one settled last month for a total of $49 million.

U.S. Airways upgrades flight

U.S. Airways upgraded one daily flight between Tucson and Phoenix on July 1 to handle increased passenger demand.

The airline replaced Mesa Air Group with a Airbus A320 on flights 435 and 29. The A320 holds 125 seats compared to the 86-seat Mesa Air flights.

This is the first flight to be upgraded, with increased demand for late-morning departures from Tucson, said U.S Airways spokesman Morgan Durrant.

There are no immediate plans to upgrade any other flights between the two cities, Durrant said.

Flight 435 leaves Phoenix at 10:04 a.m. and arrives in Tucson at 10:57 a.m. Flight 29 leaves Tucson at 11:40 a.m. and arrives in Phoenix at 12:30 p.m.

Coffee shop to serve airport

The TAA's new food vendor selected Ike's Coffee, a local coffee shop, to serve coffee at two locations inside the terminal.

Ike's Coffee will be served through a license agreement with Philadelphia-based OTG Management, Winn said.

The coffee shops should be open by Thanksgiving, said President of OTG Management Rick Blatstein.

OTG took over the airport's food service last week, and plans to renovate and replace all of the current food facilities.

New food locations will include stores such as Boar's Head Deli, Cheeburger Cheeburger, and Sky Asian Bistro.

--Contact reporter Ken Sweet at 307-0579, or email at ksweet@azstarnet.com.

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