VC man claims harassment after sewage spill
July 12, 2002
VIRGINIA CITY — Dr. Jim Reed says he will sell his home and leave Virginia City because he believes he’s being harassed for reporting health concerns over a recent sewage spill.
The spill occurred June 20 on Flowery Street, near Reed’s home.
“After the spill, the area was not blocked off,” Reed said. “Tourists and children were walking through the sewage.”
Reed filmed the spill and provided it as evidence to the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection’s Water Pollution Control Bureau.
“I’m being persecuted for taking the pictures,” said Reed, who holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry.
“There was no biohazard ‘specialist’ called in at the time of the sewage spill, nor was the street closed to foot traffic. Neither health departments, from either Reno or Carson City, were on site,” he said in a letter to Storey County commissioners. “There was no person with scientific or Hazmat expertise overseeing the pumping of the raw sewage and the crew did not have even the minimum protection of rubber gloves. These men are your friends and family and deserved at least the minimum protection.”
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According to a June 24 letter from Valerie King of the Environmental Protection Division, raw sewage was pumped from a manhole and released into the street. The sewage ran into a storm drain in an elementary school parking lot, just outside the play area.
A pit was excavated and used to hold part of the sewage. That pit was backfilled without cleaning or disinfecting the impacted area, according to King.
“The management of the incident resulted in a potential human health threat,” King wrote. “Therefore, the division is requiring immediate action to reduce the threat to human health and will subsequently issue a finding of violation and order.”
Since the incident, Reed says he has had nothing but trouble from the Storey County Public Works Department.
His sewer bill jumped from $15.20 to $72.50 this month, he said. His residence is now classified as a commercial building, because his guests have been defined as paying boarders.
A counseling therapist, Reed challenged that assessment. He said he often takes families and clients temporarily into his home, free of charge, when they need help.
“I’ve had a person living on the first floor of my house for four years,” Reed said. “He watches over my home when I’m not here, waters my plants, takes care of my animals and is added protection for the people who often use my home as a shelter. I will pay their extortion, but I will not turn down anyone who needs shelter.”
A few days ago, Reed said, he received an anonymous call from a man who threatened his pets: two cats and a dog.
Also, a tree Reed had planted was removed, allegedly because it was plugging a sewer line, he said.
According to Reed, there are now plans to reroute Flowery Street, a move that would force Reed to remove part of the porch from his home. The porch is about 30 years old, but the house was built in 1862.
“This is harassment, retaliation, a personal vendetta,” Reed said. “There has been complete denial of due process and everything has happened since the incident. I’m going to put the house up for sale. I fell in love with this house, but it’s just not worth it anymore.
Calls to Storey County Public Works Director Richard Bacus concerning the issue were not returned. Blockage of the sewer drains, together with the possible fines from Environmental Protection and Occupational Health and Safety is expected to come before Storey County commissioners at their next meeting.