A trash-filled treasure hunt for crews cleaning the Valley system

People across the Valley may have noticed that some of the Valley’s canals are getting a deep clean.

There are 131 miles of canals across the Valley. What starts as snow in Northern Arizona eventually ends up as water coming from people’s shower and faucet.

With hundreds of tons of silt, the cleaning process is nearly a never-ending process. Nevertheless, to keep the water flowing and clean, crews have to get a little dirty.

At a canal near 19th Avenue and Dunlap Road, the canal’s concrete floor was covered in a thick, black mud. It is John Wirtjes’ job to get that mud out.

"We move the material over to the side, and we use the backhoe to get it out of there and into the trucks, and on down the line," said Wirtjes, a member of SRP’s canal crew.

Clearing mud is the main mission, but there are plenty more odd things to pull out. In a way, it is like trash-filled treasure hunt. Anything can be found, from a few stray fish that missed the herding process, to someone’s golf bag, and even stacks and stacks of twisted, rusty old grocery carts.

"Lots of shopping carts," said SRP Manager Dale Persons. "For whatever reason, shopping carts migrate to water."

Beyond that, clean up crews have found furniture, safes, an ATM machine, boats, a Volkswagen, and a long-lost ring.

"That same person went back down when it dried out, and was able to find a ring and give it back to the person to belong to," said Persons.

The grocery carts, golf bags and other items all go to a landfill. Meanwhile, the mud is hauled off to an SRP dirt pile.

As for the fish, they’re on their own.

As soon as this section of canal is clean, crews move on down the line, and do it all over again.

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.

"It’s knowing that the section is clean, not just for the clean water quality, but the area safe and we can provide the best possible product for customers,"  said Wirtjes.

Crews usually start on canals in the East Valley during the fall, and then move to the West Valley in the winter. It is a 10-year process to clean all the canals across the Valley.

Tune in to FOX 10 Phoenix for the latest news

For the latest local news, download the FOX 10 News app.

Sign up for FOX 10 email alerts, newsletters