Expanding Carson City's sewer system could cost as much as $70 million over the next 20 years, the Board of Supervisors was warned Thursday.
City Engineer Larry Werner said the first phase, which is now being designed, will cost nearly $15 million instead of the $7 million estimated two years ago.
The difference, according to Werner, is in environmental requirements being imposed by the state Division of Environmental Protection in order to comply with federal law.
The original design, he said, was similar to the current treatment plant. The new design will have to remove nitrogen and related pollutants from the treated wastewater.
Werner told the board the unknowns at this point center on what the city must do about its Brunswick Reservoir where wastewater is stored. That reservoir is leaking up to 2,400 acre feet a year into the Carson River and the state has demanded that be stopped. The state's solution is to line the reservoir, which city consultants say would cost millions.
The best case scenario, he told supervisors, would cost about $38 million. The worst case scenario, $70 million over 20 years - and that doesn't include inflation.
"The costs are enormous," he said.
Supervisor Pete Livermore asked whether any of that cost could be paid by federal grants, but both Werner and Mayor Marv Teixeira said no.
"It'd all be on your sewer bill," said Teixeira.
Werner met with Division of Environmental Protection officials in May to work out an agreement that would give Carson City five years to study the leakage, find alternative uses for the wastewater and develop detailed plans that might make lining the reservoir unnecessary. In the meantime, Carson agreed to build a second retention basin that would catch the leakage and keep it out of the river.
Werner said Thursday, however, that agreement hasn't arrived yet and he believes another meeting with state environmental officials is needed to get things moving.
The board voted to approve a $537,493 addition to a contract with Carollo Engineers of Las Vegas to design the sewer plant, a contract to monitor the reservoir and test the water and its effect on the river and a $297,311 contract with a Seattle company to work with Lyon County on a proposal to connect the Mound House area to Carson City's system and to develop ways of reusing the wastewater both in Carson City and Lyon County.
The total cost of the sewer projects approved Thursday comes to $992,222 in funds from the Carson City sewer utility and a $192,000 federal grant.
Development Services Director Andy Burnham said another problem will be what to do with the reclaimed water if it doesn't go into the Carson River.
"If we capture that water from the springs, we have to do something with it and, if we do that tomorrow, we're out of capacity," he said.
But he added that, in the long run, selling that water will help reduce the city's sewer bills. Teixeira added that working out a deal with Lyon County would also help significantly by generating income for the system and possibly providing more places to use reclaimed water.
"The biggest thing is getting value out of the reclaimed water," he said.
In other business, the board:
• Approved an agreement with Carson-Tahoe Hospital to move patients to the new building when it is completed. The ambulance transfers will cost the hospital $500 per patient instead of the normal city paramedic ambulance rate of $806.
• Approved a contract with Amador Stage Lines to provide transportation for the Junior Ski Program this winter.
• Approved an agreement with the Allied Health nursing program at Western Nevada Community College to use its students to help handle city-sponsored immunization clinics this year.
• Refused to add $1 to the $10 fee now charged for death certificates in Carson City. The Legislature approved that option this year to provide coroner's offices in Nevada with some funding for training and equipment. The board declined to add the fee saying the estimated revenue would only amount to $4,200 and wasn't necessary.
n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.