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Wetland might ease wastewater problem

Terri Harber
Appeal Staff Writer

Plans to halt leakage of wastewater from Brunswick Reservoir into the Carson River don’t need to include rapid-infiltration basins, one area man says.

Norman Saake, a Fallon resident retired from the Nevada Department of Wildlife, would like to see Carson City build a pipeline, send the water to a dusty playa near Stagecoach called Misfits Flat and turn that area into a wetland, he said.

Saake was involved in construction of a wastewater wetland in the early 1980s for Incline Village. It is located north of Minden, and wastewater is pumped there from a processing plant in Incline.

“It’s not rocket science,” he said. “And there are a lot of funding options for wetlands projects.”

Carson City will need to find a place to put the excess wastewater once the reservoir is repaired, and as its population increases. The city reclaims 5,800 acre-feet of water a year and, except for the 2,000 acre-feet that seeps out of the reservoir annually, has been able to find places on which to sprinkle the wastewater.

The city has examined exporting the reclaimed water to areas outside of Carson City but found it too costly and time-consuming to achieve by the state-imposed deadline of June 30, said City Manager Linda Ritter.

The plan also must be contained within the city’s boundaries unless the city can reach agreements with neighboring counties when the plan is adopted, she said.

Ritter did note that the plan could be modified and, in an e-mail to Saake, she wrote, “this does not mean that we won’t continue to keep the option of wetland disposal open for the future.”

The 88 parcels near Mexican Dam get their water from a private well. Many of these property owners are worried the basins will ruin their water quality. They also were told previously the basins wouldn’t be used, and are angry the water-reuse master plan includes the basins, said Supervisor Pete Livermore.

Livermore cited other possibilities not in the plan, such as improvements at the wastewater treatment plant and agricultural uses for the wastewater, as viable options for the Board of Supervisors to choose from during the meeting June 1.

Six different alternatives are presented in the plan. All include use of the basins. Some include lining the reservoir or building another reservoir near the Carson City Rifle Range. Cost estimates are $8.9 million to $25.7 million, depending on the solution picked by the supervisors.

Any choice will be paid for by sewer customers, who will shoulder the cost with a raise in their bills, Livermore said.

While the water quality resulting from the use of the basins hasn’t been adequately examined, wetlands – and their water quality – have been subject to ample research, Saake said.

No matter which method is chosen, “it’s going to be expensive,” Saake said. “But a wetland is a permanent fix.”

And a wetland plan might please state officials enough so that the city receives more time to solve the problem, he said.

Saake also said he believes a wetland use could serve other nearby communities as they grow, and that they also could use a pipe running from Carson City to Stagecoach.

The basins being proposed in the city’s plan allow wastewater to percolate through the soil. The treated wastewater then drains through hydraulic pathways to groundwater or surface water.

• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.