The water system north of Parker on the Parker Strip may soon have a new owner. EPCOR Water Arizona, Inc., announced May 13 they had reached an agreement to purchase the assets of Brooke Water LLC. The sale is pending the approval of the Arizona Corporation Commission.
“EPCOR is a recognized leader in safety and operational excellence, and our team’s experience and expertise runs very deep,” said Joe Gysel, President of EPCOR USA in a press release. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the owners of Brooke to purchase the system and become the new owner and operator. We look forward to bringing our track record of operational, safety and customer service excellence to Brooke’s customers.”
“EPCOR will bring the right blend of expertise, long-term commitment, and customer-focused operations to Brooke customers,” said Tom Jamieson, Manager of Brooke in the same press release. “We’re very pleased to be entering into this ownership transition process.”
Brooke Water serves approximately 2,100 customers in the area north of Parker along the Colorado River that’s known as the Parker Strip. They will be EPCOR’s eight acquisition in Arizona.
EPCOR already has a service area in Lake Havasu City. In an application filed with the Corporation Commission May 13, they said they have the management expertise to make capital improvements to Brooke’s system, as well as the financing to make those improvements.
They further stated they wanted to extend their Lake Havasu City service area to include Brooke Water’s service area to mitigate the effects capital improvements to the system would have on Brooke’s rate structure. They said about $7.5 million in improvements will be needed over the next 10 years.
EPCOR said Brooke’s current rate structure would not justify such capital expenses. By including them in their Lake Havasu City service area, they could achieve “economies of scale” for capital expenses.
Among the other benefits of the purchase would be Brooke customers would benefit from improved customer service. One of the complaints made by Brooke customers over the years was they could not get through to anyone with the company when they had any issues or needed service calls.
In the application filed with the ACC, EPCOR stated Brooke’s history has been well-documented in cases before the commission, and added the company met the definition of a “non-viable” utility under the commission’s water policies.
Many of Brooke Water’s problems became public following a major outage that occurred Aug. 21-24, 2016. A failed pressure valve led to five breaks in the lines. Service was not fully restored until Aug. 24. An Arizona Department of Environmental Quality engineer said Aug. 26 the water was safe to drink.
The ACC wasn’t informed of the outage until two days after it started. At a special meeting Aug. 29, they ordered their staff to prepare a report on Brooke. What they found was a system whose lines had been installed more than 50 years earlier and were nearing the end of their useful life. They also found much wear and tear on the storage system. They also found poor customer service on the part of Brooke. Customers often could not reach anyone at the company when they had issues, and, when they did reach someone, they were treated rudely.
In their press release, EPCOR USA described themselves as being among the largest private water utilities in the Southwest as well as the largest in Arizona. In addition to regulated water and wastewater service in Arizona and New Mexico, EPCOR USA delivers wholesale water services and regulated natural gas services in Texas. EPCOR USA currently provides service to approximately 665,000 people in 44 communities.