Sumitomo Wrestling

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There are reasons for what may seem like an overgenerous offer of limited resources. For tax-revenue purposes, city officials want very badly to turn the area surrounding the Sumitomo site into the Valley's next high-tech manufacturing center--and they don't want to worry about water while they're doing it.

It is an area that city officials have long projected as a major population center. Population projections envision more than 200,000 residents in the area by 2020, according to a study conducted for the city by Pollack and Associates, a Phoenix consulting firm.

Mike Martin of Northeast Phoenix Partners, which holds the master permit for 5,600 acres north of the CAP canal called Desert Ridge, was a major player in the effort to lure Sumitomo to the area. He says residential development has already begun. The speed of development will only pick up now that Sumitomo has settled on the area.

The Mayo Clinic is already set to build a hospital officials hope will serve as the core of a cluster of health-care-oriented companies immediately east of where Sumitomo will locate.

A concentration of jobs in the area would accelerate the development of housing in Desert Ridge and to the north, city officials say, creating the population necessary for development of a regional shopping mall. In fact, the city's general plan for the area allows such a mall between 56th Street and Tatum Boulevard, north of the Pima Freeway.

The mall and other nearby retail development would be major sales-tax generators for Phoenix and Scottsdale. This future tax revenue is one of the hidden reasons politicos are so eager to kick-start development in the area.

Promises of new jobs, hospitals and enhanced sales-tax revenue, however, don't make everyone feel better about the water issue.

Hannah Goldstein, president of Scottsdale Concerned Citizens Inc., says there's more to the Sumitomo water issue than meets the eye. Her group has joined in a coalition with Sonoran North Incorporated, Don't Waste Arizona Incorporated and the Northeast Valley Citizens Organization to stop Sumitomo from building its plant.

"Everyone acts like we have all the water we could possibly need," Goldstein says. "We don't. And as more development occurs up here, we will have less and less."

Sumitomo and the city say that eventually the plant will use about 2.5 million gallons of water per day--enough water to meet the daily needs of about 25,000 people.

Residents of the area are already sensitive about water concerns. The large number of golf courses built nearby in the last few years has brought the locals' attention to the aquifer that lies just beneath the site--an aquifer that studies show is being rapidly depleted.

"It's one of the last aquifers in the state that we know is clean," Goldstein says. "If that [water] gets pumped out, there won't be any groundwater left up here, and we'll all be totally dependent on the CAP."

Phoenix water officials say that, although the Sumitomo plant will eventually get all its water from the CAP canal, at least some water will probably have to be pumped from the ground during the construction and start-up phases.

"It's foolish to think that just because we have what looks like plenty of water from the CAP today, we will have as much as we need forever," says Steve Brittle of Don't Waste Arizona. "Even if there is enough water to meet everybody's needs up there now, will there be enough when the area is built out? Are they giving away a resource that can't be replenished?

"Where is this water coming from, where is it going to go, and what's going to be in it?"

Silicon-wafer manufacturing is an extremely chemical-intensive business, based as it is on stringent standards of cleanliness and precision. Large amounts of solvents are used to clean, smooth and polish the wafers as they are formed, and even larger amounts are needed to clean the wafer-making machinery. Then, vast amounts of water are used to wash all the chemicals off equipment, floors and workers.

So where does the chemical-laden water go after that?
In Sumitomo's case, it will travel from the plant site all the way across the city--to the Phoenix water-treatment plant at 91st Avenue and the Salt River. As the pipes run, it is a distance of more than 20 miles.

According to the ELaw Society, an environmental watchdog organization in Oregon that fought Sumitomo's plans to locate there, these types of manufacturing facilities use chemicals that are so new that federal officials are not sure whether they pose a public-safety risk. Some extremely hazardous chemicals used in the industry are arsine, phosphine and ammonia.

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Dave Plank