Carson City may have found a way around paying up to $20 million to fix a leaky waste water storage basin east of town.
City and state officials are hashing out a plan to monitor, rather than line with concrete, the Brunswick detention basin, which stores the city's treated effluent, some of which seeps into the ground and eventually trickles into the Carson River.
"I appreciate the willingness of the NDEP (Nevada Department of Environmental Protection) to sit down and look at other remedies than a $20 million expense that would have been passed on to ratepayers," said Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira.
Although Nevada Bureau of Water Pollution Control Chief Jon Palm said the plan isn't yet official, city officials say it's close.
Under the plan, the city would monitor seepage in the basin for five years, redirecting new springs back into the basin, and determine what effect it does or doesn't have on the river.
The state has also proposed the city perform extra treatment on the effluent before putting it into the basin.
"We'll see if it works," said Palm. "If it doesn't work, they'll still have to line it."
Teixeira said city engineers are confident of the plan. "If we weren't confident we wouldn't have gone this far ," he said.
Treated effluent stored in the basin is used around the city for landscape irrigation.
Springs that are swelled by seepage from Brunswick meet drinking water standards, said Carson City Development Services Director Andy Burnham, but they don't meet Carson River standards.
The leaking water is higher in nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen, which stimulate massive algae growth.
When the algae dies, it consumes all the oxygen in the water, putting fish in peril.
The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection ordered the city last year to come up with a plan to mitigate the seeping effluent.
Lining the basin with concrete would have cost about $5 million up front, Burnham said.
It would also increase the amount of reclaimed water so much that the city would have be forced to find new places to irrigate and build more specialized water lines, costing several million dollars more over the next few years.
Adding other expenses, such as a second storage basin to hold all the extra effluent, would have brought the whole project's price tag into the $19 million to $20 million range, according to Teixeira.
The city reclaims about 5,800 acre-feet of waste water per year for irrigation use and treats about 5 million gallons a day, an amount that's expected to double over the next two decades.
So far 13 sites, mostly parks, are irrigated with the reclaimed water to lessen the burden on the municipal water system.
With plans to repave Saliman Road this summer, the city will also be extending the "purple pipe" so the green spaces of Mills Park and Carson High can be maintained with the reclaimed water in the future.
Both are extremely heavy users of city water, Burnham said.
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