Arsenic could cost Carson Valley millions |

Arsenic could cost Carson Valley millions

by Regina Purcell

Many wells in Douglas County don’t meet tough federal standards for arsenic levels, and meeting them could be a communitywide endeavor.

The Carson Water Subconservancy District has been evaluating the feasibility of developing a regional water project to assist in meeting the standard.

In 2002, the district authorized a $10,000 study by Brown & Caldwell, completed late last year, that offers four alternatives to meet the new arsenic standards.

The new arsenic standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency decreased from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb. In the past, all the water agencies in Carson Valley complied with federal standards of 50 ppb.

James said most wells north of the Minden-Tahoe Airport do not meet the new standard, with some wells as high as 35 ppb. He has met with the towns of Minden and Gardnerville, Douglas County and several general- improvement districts.

“Once we get a rough consensus on how the various water agencies want to meet the new arsenic standard, then we will start dealing with the issues of finding funding sources to help pay the costs to meet the new standard,” James said.

James said the cost of compliance could be in the millions, but the Brown & Caldwell studies show that by working together, the water agencies could reduce that cost by almost half.

The first deadline for meeting the new standards is in 2006. James suspects most agencies will ask for a continuance of up to three years in order to comply.

Of the four alternatives, the most costly is to build a treatment facility.

James said construction would be costly, along with annual operating and maintenance costs.

As an example, in Churchill County, Fallon was mandated to build a new facility because its arsenic standards exceeded the existing 50 ppb standard.

“It is a very expensive process,” James said. “It is possible that water rates in Fallon could quadruple just to cover the additional operation and maintenance costs to run the treatment plants.”

The four alternatives identified in the report that are being considered in Douglas County are:

• Construct a pipeline from Minden to provide water to East Valley and Indian Hills and the county-owned area near Wal-Mart at an estimated cost of $7.7 million.

• Build an arsenic treatment plant at the Minden-Tahoe Airport to treat all of Douglas County and Indian Hills water to meet standards at an estimated cost of $15.8 million.

• Construct a pipeline from Minden to the airport and tie into the county’s East Valley system and run a pipeline from Little Mondeaux to Indian Hills General Improvement District at a cost of approximately $6.5 million.

• Construct a pipeline from Minden to service East Valley. Indian Hills would have to build a treatment plant big enough to service its district for a total cost estimated at $7.5 million.