Salvage developer battles officials over sewage

A Sparks developer wants to bring a self-service auto dismantler to Carson City, but city officials are stalling the plan because of concerns over the development's sewer system.

Pick-n-Pull Dismantling Yard wants to put the facility off Highway 50, east of the road to the city landfill. The problem is there is no sewer line for more than a mile, and the city has ordinances against industrial properties installing septic tanks.

The city's environmental health department denied a request in September from project managers Lumos and Associates to install an individual sewage disposal system. City code allows individual residences to have septic systems, but industrial properties could dump chemicals which contaminate ground water used for drinking.

"Our basic concern is not to put public drinking water at risk," Deputy City Manager Dan St. John said. "Carson City has spent a considerable amount of money moving away from septic system because of measurable amounts of contamination in our drinking supply."

Project Manager Glen Martel of Lumos and Associates said the dismantling company has a choice of putting a septic system at the site or hooking to the city's septic line. He said the nearest line is about 6,200 feet away and connecting to the line would cost the company around $450,000. A septic tank would cost between $15,000 and $20,000, Martel said.

He added that unlike many other industries, Pick-n-Pull doesn't need a septic system for industrial waste disposal.

"When you're dealing with public health and safety, we have to deal with the potentials of things happening," St. John said. "We're talking about potential. We know septic systems contaminate our ground water. Put on top of that the potential of contamination for types of materials that could be generated by this type of development and you're looking at contamination of things far worse than nitrates."

Environmental Health Director Daren Winkelman said septic tanks are basically large, underground tanks with two compartments. One side is used for wastes and liquids go to the other side where they eventually leech out through a pipe system. He said the city had problems with nitrates in the water before which led to the 1996 ordinance banning commercial and industrial sites from having individual septic systems.

Allowing Pick-n-Pull to be a special case would work against the ordinance and open the option of other commercial developers requesting individual septic systems, Winkelman said.

City supervisors take up the issue Thursday. Besides denying the request, supervisors have a few other options:

- The property owner can pay for the utility extension and would be reimbursed by Carson City. Adjacent property owners would pay share of the installation costs. About 30 parcels would be affected.

- Property owners could pursue an assessment district in the Highway 50 East industrial area from which about 55 parcels would benefit.

- Supervisors could amend the city ordnance to allow individual septic systems on commercial or industrial property with supervisor approval only. Supervisors would decided on the appropriateness of the septic systems on a case-by-case basis.

Pick-n-Pull co-owner Dick Mills said he would like supervisors to look at the issue on an individual basis.

"We've been doing this for years," Mills said. "We know what we're doing, and we'll do it right. We're willing to hook up and bring the sewer system up but that's not the point.

"The properties are undevelopable the way they are, and the city would be improved by extending them. It's hard to put that on the back of one development."

If you go:

What: Carson City Board of Supervisors meeting

When: Thursday, 8:30 a.m.

Where: Carson City Community Center Sierra Room, 851 E. William St., Carson City


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