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Who is making decisions on our groundwater?

There are people that make things happen, people that watch things happen and people that wonder what just happened.

Then there are people that don’t care what happened.

So consider what happened at the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission on Wednesday night. It appears that the members that voted to approve the conditional use permit for Utilities Inc. to build two rapid infiltration basins here in Pahrump either didn’t read the staff report or didn’t care what it said. Very plainly on page 5 it says, and I quote: “2. Water Quality. Impact on Existing Groundwater Quality: Could the proposed project/land use (be) considered a Potential Contamination Source? (Yes/No – Table E-1): Yes.

Class: Municipal Waste. Source: Wastewater Treatment Plant. Risk level (Low/Moderate/High): High.

Contaminant Categories: B, C, and D

B = Synthetic Organic Compound

C = Inorganic Contaminant

D = Microbiological

3. Water Quantity. Estimated Water Use: Water usage estimate not provided or calculated for the proposed use.”

Pahrump Basin 162 is a closed basin. Whatever gets dumped into it gets pumped right back out by domestic and other well owners. I’m having a hard time understanding what would entice anyone on the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission staff to recommend approval of this conditional use permit with such damning information included in the report. Didn’t they read their own report? Did any of the PRPC members read this report prior to voting? Or is there so much money involved that contamination of our drinking water is insignificant?

Perhaps now is the time for the Nye County Commission to dissolve this dysfunctional board and start making these decisions that we elected them to make. How about it, commissioners? You’ve dissolved numerous other boards and committees lately, how about this one? Furthermore, since this is a water quality problem, where is the Water District Governing Board in all this? The WDGB should take this up in an emergency meeting and stop it in its tracks. The WDGB charter by the Nevada Legislature gives them authority over water quality and things that have the potential to affect that quality. These Rapid Infiltration Basins are a time bomb. According to testimony of both staff representatives and Wendy Barnett of Utilities, Inc., these proposed basins will be placed in an area prone to flooding. Neither of these people seemed to know whether future runoff would adversely impact the affluent capacity of these RIBs.

While I’m on that subject, are the staff members making recommendations for approval even qualified to make those decisions? What are their backgrounds? Are they engineers? Do they have firsthand knowledge of wastewater treatment plant construction and operation utilizing rapid infiltration basins and the dangers inherent in their use? Since some of the PRPC members seemed to lack the knowledge to make an informed decision they relied on staff recommendations. Was it prudent if those recommending approval lacked the knowledge and experience necessary. It would appear that much of the information and data concerning these RIBs was furnished by Utilities Inc. Is this a case of the fox guarding the henhouse? Since board member Greg Hafen III manages Pahrump Utilities, which utilizes RIBs, he couldn’t very well vote against this project without jeopardizing his own livelihood. It would be interesting to see the results of testing domestic well water quality down gradient from those RIBs since they have been there for some time. Since the WDGB is collecting $5 per parcel to sustain their operations perhaps they could afford the few hundred dollars necessary to conduct a sampling in nearby wells?

How about it members of the WDGB, are you interested?

Dave Caudle is a Pahrump resident and former candidate for Nye County Commission. He resigned from the new Pahrump Groundwater Management Plan Advisory Committee in early 2014.


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