Truckee Meadows Water Systems of Reno is providing free arsenic testing for residents of Northern Nevada with drinking water supplies coming from private wells.
“Municipal water providers test their water and, if the arsenic levels are high, notify customers. Unfortunately, private well users usually have no idea if their arsenic levels exceed the EPA limit of 10 parts per billion until it's too late.” said Mike Guidara, company president, in a press release.
Arsenic in high doses causes cancer of the lungs, bladder, kidneys and skin. Once ingested, it accumulates in the body.
“The government has allocated grant money for public water supplies, but not for homes drawing from private wells. We've seen local wells at over 100 parts per billion and now, there is talk of lowering the EPA standard to 3-5 parts per billion” Guidara said.
Tahoe Daily Tribune article, copied from Wednesday, November 2, 2005
EPA to look at Tahoe drainage systems
By Amanda Fehd
Homeowners and businesses in Tahoe could be installing drainage systems regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for health safety reasons - and not know it.
Representatives from the EPA, Tahoe's planning agency and Nevada's environmental protection agency met by conference call last week to discuss whether drainage systems used in Tahoe fall into a category EPA alleges has the potential to contaminate groundwater. No decision was made.
A variety of drainage systems are used in Tahoe to comply with a Tahoe Regional Planning Agency ordinance requiring most property owners to install devices to catch rain and snowmelt.
Called stormwater best management practices, or BMPs, the systems are intended to prevent soil erosion.
Most not a concern
While most of the drainage systems in Tahoe are not a concern, some may be classified as Class V wells, according to Elizabeth Janes at EPA's Region Nine groundwater office in San Francisco.
Tahoe's rain and snowmelt, called stormwater, is generally very clean, diminishing risk of contamination, according to Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control board, which regulates water quality at Lake Tahoe.
However, certain drainage systems would allow any contaminants, or spills of auto or lawn chemicals, to more easily enter groundwater, according to EPA.
EPA requires inventory information from property owners who install Class V drainage systems because of their alleged potential to contaminate groundwater.
Users must also agree not to allow any substances that are threats to drinking water to enter the systems.
EPA's list of threats to drinking water includes chemicals used in household cleaning, lawn and auto care and is available at www.epa.gov/safewater/mcl.html#mcls.
The worst kind of Class V well is a drilled hole allowing water directly down to the water table. The technique is not used in Tahoe but has been standard construction practice in other parts of California, Janes said.
But Class V wells can include many other types of underground drainage systems, according to EPA.
Much of South Shore gets its drinking water only from groundwater, while the lake supplies drinking water to most of the Nevada side. Drinking water is constantly monitored for purity.
No decision yet
EPA is not ready to make a determination on designs for residential or commercial BMPs in Tahoe before taking a closer look at them, Janes said.
"We all agreed we need to sit down and look at these on location," said Russ Land, supervisor of the groundwater protection office of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Janes's Nevada counterpart. NDEP provides funding for TRPA's residential BMP retrofit program.
Based on his limited review of residential BMP designs in TRPA's contractors handbook, Land said none fit the definition of a Class V well.
EPA Region Nine was not so sure, Janes said.
The three agencies met after inquiries to EPA from the Tahoe Daily Tribune about whether the Class V wells were used in Tahoe. Area engineers raised the issue with the Tribune.
While Birgit Widegren, head of TRPA's soil erosion team, said it has not been interpreted in the past that Tahoe's designs qualify as Class V, EPA representatives were not certain.
All Tahoe BMP designs are approved by a state engineer, according to Erik Larson, program coordinator for the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, which provides information to owners of homes where BMPs are installed.
Measures are in place to protect groundwater in Tahoe, according to Widegren. Properties expected to release pollution into rain water or snowmelt, like an auto station, are required to treat it before it is allowed to enter the ground.
TRPA's approach to BMPs is very conservative, Janes said. "They aren't ignorant of the vulnerability of their groundwater."
TRPA's BMP ordinance is aimed at reducing soil erosion, one of the main factors in Lake Tahoe's declining clarity.
"The fundamental concept of keeping soil on property is sound and how we do it may evolve over time," said TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan. "It's a collaborative process and we will be making sure we are all in agreement."
Homes less risky
Residential properties are less of a risk to groundwater than commercial properties, Janes said.
"EPA does not want to discourage anyone from implementing their residential stormwater BMPs," said Janes. But she cautioned property owners to be responsible about chemical use such as fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and auto chemicals.
"What you pump into the ground ends up somewhere," she said.
A fact sheet from EPA says there is concern "there may be a dramatic increase in the use of Class V wells as a (BMP) to dispose of stormwater. Infiltration through stormwater drainage wells has the potential to adversely impact [underground sources of drinking water].
The runoff that enters the stormwater drainage wells may be contaminated with sediments, nutrients, metals, salts, fertilizers, pesticides and microorganisms."
The fact sheet was put out in response to construction practices in Modesto, Janes said. It is available at www.epa.gov/safewater/uic/pdfs/fact_class5_stormwater.pdf.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) mission is to provide reliable scientific information about the Nation’s natural resources. An integral part of that mission is to provide consistent, long-term water-resources data to customers, cooperators, and the public. To accomplish our mission, we operate a widespread surface- and ground-water data collection network as well as research a wide range of scientific issues throughout Nevada.
SCOTT SONNER AND MARTIN GRIFFITH, ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITERS
SPECIAL REPORT | The Jan. 5, 2008 canal breach and its aftermath
FERNLEY, Nev. (AP) — In 1903, when a 31-mile canal was dug to move water from the Truckee River to the melon and alfalfa fields around Fallon, earthern embankments made a lot of sense.
The dirt canal construction was cheaper than lining the entire route with concrete, and no one in northern Nevada much minded if it and other canals like it in the Newlands Reclamation Project occasionally failed. Floodwaters would flow into pastures and surrounding desert and soak back into the water table.
Today, what once was the rural agricultural town of Fernley is now a growing bedroom community of about 20,000 residents that has been declared a disaster area after storm-swollen water tore a hole in the 50-foot-wide and 9-foot-deep canal and inundated hundreds of homes.
by Sheila Gardner, firstname.lastname@example.org
January 2, 2008
Douglas County and Minden officials are to kick off the new year with a long-awaited meeting Wednesday to discuss water issues.
"We had requested this a long time ago," said Minden vice chairman Dave Sheets. "Then, it got delayed, the agenda wasn't what people wanted. We kept pushing and saying we have a lot of things that have a common interest that may be coming to a head at this point."
Minden recently hired a California law firm to represent the town's vast water holdings from a challenge by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe which seeks to halt all water transfers.
"The majority of what I perceive this meeting to be is wrapped around water," Sheets said. "We're not going to say, 'We're hiring a law firm. Do you want to participate?'
"For me, it's to try to figure out, 'Do you, as a county, see this as a serious threat? Of paramount importance?' Or, 'this, too, shall pass.'"
Tribal lawyers argued Carson Valley's groundwater is "severely over-appropriated," and more groundwater use means less flow in the Carson River to Lake Lahontan.
Joint meeting between Town of Minden and Douglas County, 5 p.m., Wednesday, CVIC Hall, Esmeralda Avenue, Minden; 6:30 p.m., staff reports; 7 p.m. regular agenda including discussion of U.S. Postal Service process to procure new Minden post office site; bid review of sign at Jake's Wildlife and Wetland Meadow; discuss installation of calliope on 1937 La France Fire Truck for use at town events. Information, 782-5976.
by Sheila Gardner,
December 21, 2007
Minden officials hired "the largest water law practice in the United States" on Wednesday to defend the town's vast water holdings from challenges by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.
Board members, meeting in special session, voted 4-0 to hire Hatch & Parent law corporation of Santa Barbara, Calif.
"If you make a decision tonight, we could be ready to go on one-day notice," senior counsel Michael A. Gheleta told the board. "It seems like your concern is legitimate. It's best to get in early rather than find out the case has left the station without you."
The board heard from five law firms Wednesday before selecting Hatch & Parent.