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TMWA Admits Lemmon Valley Flooding Affecting Water Supply Wells (Opinion)


Image: Bob Conrad.

UPDATE (4/30/19): TMWA responded to this letter during a public meeting yesterday. Read the response here.

Submitted by Kris Hemlein

Open Letter to Mr. John Enloe, Director, Natural Resources, Truckee Meadows Water Authority

Dear Mr. Enloe:

I understand that you want to correct the claim that the Vidler Pipeline contributes to the flooding in Swan Lake. You asserted that TMWA is operating the Vidler pipeline to meet drinking water demands in Stead and Lemmon Valley, since several of TMWA’s wells around Swan Lake are shut down due to the flooding.

I am alarmed that this could indicate that the wells were shut down due to contamination of the aquifer. Contamination of an aquifer could be due to the leakage of the contaminated surface water through the clay layer or due to leakage around the well pipe itself. Please explain why these wells were shut down.

Area residents and county residents need to understand the well issue in detail so as to have confidence that the wells and drinking water are compromised due to flooding and, should the wells need to be replaced, what costs will be incurred. Please provide the following documents.

1) A map of TMWA well locations for both production and monitoring wells.

  • Identify the wells that have been shut down.
  • Identify which wellheads are submerged.
  • Describe the construction, depth, and extraction rates for each well.

2) Recent water quality test reports.

3) A description of how the water from the production wells is treated. Do these wells extract water below the “50 feet of impermeable clay” (per Dwayne Smith)?

4) For technical completeness, please include the depths to screened intervals, construction records, and piezometric surface mapping data.

It is imperative that the NDEP remain involved in the ongoing Lemmon Valley/Swan Lake flooding monitoring and remedial efforts. The Bureau of Water Pollution Control must ensure compliance with water pollution control laws. The Bureau of Corrective Actions must oversee the remedial efforts to be determined by Washoe County/City of Reno.

The Bureau of Safe Drinking Water must ensure compliance with state and federal drinking water standards of all water sources in Lemmon Valley. If it is determined that Swan Lake is indeed contaminated by untreated effluent then the Bureau of Waste Management must participate in regulating remedial efforts as untreated effluent is considered a hazardous waste.

If it is determined that these wells have been compromised, then costs associated with new well construction must be made public. This cost will be absorbed by Washoe residents, therefore must be made public knowledge as part of the Lemmon Valley flooding remediation and mitigation planning process.

As a community-owned utility, TMWA must provide a complete and comprehensive response to these questions. In a good faith effort to ensure complete transparency TMWA must supply abstraction, domestic and monitoring well construction and analytical data, to be utilized as an integral part of the Lemmon Valley water balance scheme, and as necessary to ensure complete remediation and best practice for ongoing stormwater, sewage, and domestic water supply management.


Kris Hemlein

Kris Hemlein is an environmental engineer in the mining industry

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