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Safety concerns surround approval of filtration system

An approval of the conditional use permit for the construction by Utilities Inc. of rapid infiltration basins raised numerous concerns among residents who questioned the potential of the aquifer contamination.

Under the permit granted on Wednesday by Pahrump Regional Planning Commission, Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada plans to construct two basins, or RIBs, at the former Willow Creek Golf Course by modifying existing overflow ponds located on the property for the purposes of effluent disposal, flood control and groundwater recharge.

The basins help filter the water back into the ground. The system will allow for 650,000 gallons of effluent disposal per day.

“We believe that this request, which would allow for effluent disposal, flood control and groundwater recharge, those are all things that will benefit the entire community,” Nye County Planning Department Director Steve Osborne told the commission.

RIBs work similarly to a septic tank, but unlike a septic tank that returns untreated sewage into drinking water, RIBs remove the majority of the contaminants. Wastewater Treatment Plant No. 3 uses tertiary treatment, sand filters and chlorination before water goes into ponds and before it will go into the RIBS, officials said.

William Coates, wastewater treatment plant operator for UICN, said septic tanks typically treat up to 50 percent of water.

“Treatment Plant No.3 currently needs or exceeds the permit requirements for discharge of the effluent,” he said. “It typically will achieve 95 to 99 percent removal of the contaminants that are in our discharge permit.”

Wendy Barnett, president of UICN, said the the company is still working on some of the conditions of approval outlined in the plan and added that the proposed RIBs would fit the basin and help flood protection.

“There are always contingency plans, that’s part of Bill’s job and we have never had a notice of violation from the NDEP for the quality of our effluent,” Barnett said.

UICN plans to use the effluent from Wastewater Treatment Plant No. 3 for reuse or storage in various ponds on site and to send the water to Lakeview Golf Course for reuse or dispose of the effluent in the new onsite RIBs on the property.

Wastewater Treatment Plant No. 3 is supplying treated, denitrified, and disinfected effluent to the former Willow Creek Golf Course.

The request for the construction of the RIBs has received approval from the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada and the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection.

No adverse effects to groundwater are expected to occur as a result of this effluent reuse according to the NDEP, however, an analysis of the potential impact of the proposed project on community water resources included in the staff report said the proposed project presents a high risk of degradation of groundwater quality.

Part of the Basin 162 Groundwater Management Plan that had been widely disputed by many Pahrump residents and some officials, RIBs was one of the recommendations for dealing with future wastewater effluents. A group of Pahrump residents who were present at the Wednesday meeting voiced their concerns over the safety of the project, citing studies that pointed to the flows of the system.

Nye County Water District Governing Board Chair Greg Dann cautioned board members against putting RIBs into a sole source aquifer.

“Main lining, unpotable water ran into our sole source aquifer, that’s a potential disaster waiting to happen,” he said.

Pahrump activist Kenny Bent pointed out that Pahrump doesn’t have an alternative water source, should the aquifer be contaminated.

The project has to be approved by Nye County commissioners before it goes forward.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77

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