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Washoe County receives water quality award for Tahoe Basin road cleaning efforts

By Bob Conrad

The Washoe County Department of Public Works Roads Division is the recipient of the 2009 Wendell McCurry Excellence in Water Quality Award for the use of advanced roadway sweeping practices that help prevent fine sediment and nutrients from entering Lake Tahoe.

Allen Biaggi, director of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Leo Drozdoff, administrator of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, presented the award to the Washoe County Board of Commissioners on February 9, 2010.

The award recognizes Washoe County’s implementation of a robust roadway sweeping program, which is seen as a key pollutant source control action to help meet the Clarity Challenge—restoring 10 feet of Lake Tahoe’s famed clarity.

The Lake Tahoe total maximum daily load (TMDL) has identified fine sediment particles and nutrients as the major pollutants impacting Lake Tahoe clarity. Urban stormwater runoff and air deposition are primary sources of these pollutants. Roads contribute a major portion of the pollutant load because of the role they play in generation, transport and delivery of fine sediment and phosphorus. The TMDL Implementation Plan identifies intensive roadway sweeping as a first line source control to remove fine sediment particles before they are transported to the lake or re-entrained into the atmosphere.

Washoe County’s program includes a rigorous sweeping schedule with advanced equipment that incorporates both mechanical broom and vacuum sweeping. The county was the first jurisdiction in the Tahoe Basin to use this innovative technology.

The Wendell McCurry Award is presented annually in honor of long-time NDEP employee, Wendell McCurry, to commemorate his dedication to protecting water quality throughout Nevada.