EPA cites North Las Vegas over sewage treatment plant

The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the city of North Las Vegas to take immediate steps to fix violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

The agency said Wednesday that city management of its wastewater pre­treatment program has deficiencies with the potential to result in discharging polluted water from its water reclamation facility into the Las Vegas Wash. The wash feeds into Lake Mead, where the Las Vegas Valley gets 90 percent of its drinking water.

The uncertainty about whether polluted water leaves the city facility is driven by violations that include lack of sampling wastewater at major industrial users, inadequate record-keeping of its monitoring efforts, and failure to inspect major industrial users that rely on the plant, according to the agency’s letter.

The order will require the city to commit staffing and financial resources to make the improvements, the federal agency said.

The agency’s June 26 letter to the city follows its September 2014 inspection to determine the city’s compliance with its permit. Agency officials said the changes will ensure the city’s infrastructure has better protection from industrial pollution.

“Despite a tight budget, the city will be making a necessary and wise investment by bringing its wastewater pretreatment prgram into compliance with federal standards,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest.

The city finished constructing a new wastewater treatment facility on Betty Lane in 2011, but failed to develop its new pretreatment program, the EPA said.

The EPA also determined that the city failed to evaluate its permitting process or have the proper permits in place for industrial users. The agency also says the city didn’t put qualified personnel in place.

The city doesn’t face any fines from the order.

In a statement, Mayor John Lee said coming into compliance is his “top priority.”

Randy DeVaul, director of the city’s utilities department, said city leaders are committed to doing everything necessary.

DeVaul said the plant hasn’t discharged pollutants, noting that the water it releases is “near drinking water standard.”

The city doesn’t contest the EPA order and has already started work to get its program for industrial users in place, DeVaul said. He said he doesn’t know yet if the city will need to hire additional staff.

By Jan. 1 the city will need to submit a plan detailing how North Las Vegas will investigate and respond to industrial user noncompliance.

The order requires city staff to submit an industrial pretreatment program to the City Council for approval by March 1. The city must submit that program to the EPA by April 15.

The city’s wastewater treatment plant has a history of problems. In June 2011, the then-new $300 million plant started discharging treated wastewater into the Clark County-owned Sloan Channel — without the county’s permission. Insects increased in the warm weather and plagued residents.

Before then, the concrete-lined channel normally carried only floodwater, which didn’t cause a bug problem. The city and county went to court over the matter, reaching an agreement to construct a five-mile pipeline along the Sloan Channel to carry the wastewater to the wash. The pipeline is finished and working.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1

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