County makes progress on McDermitt arsenic problem

County makes progress on McDermitt arsenic problem

County makes progress on McDermitt arsenic problem

Humboldt County Commission (HCC) continues to move toward a long-term solution to McDermitt’s water problems. In February, 2017, arsenic levels in the town’s water supply spiked above safe concentrations. Since then, the County has provided bottled water to McDermitt residents while a solution is sought.

With a problem this complicated, however, progress is slow. According to County Administrator Dave Mendiola, the commission approved in July a Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) compiled by Farr Engineering. The PER leads to pilot tests on a filtration system. Should the system work according to expectations, commissioners hope to have it up and running by April 2018.

The commission recently accepted a grant of $60,350 from the State of Nevada Water Conservation and Capital Improvement to offset the costs of the PER and pilot studies. McDermitt Water System is expected to match 29 percent of the grant, up to $24,640.

The commission is also dealing with a fine for violation of statute due to the high arsenic levels in McDermitt’s water. Mendiola stated in the Aug. 7 Commission meeting that he received notification of the violation in Jan. 2017, and attended a Show Cause meeting in March to determine the nature of the violation and the fine.

Because the commission took over management of the McDermitt General Interest District, the county must pay the fine settlement of $1,905. This is significantly reduced from the original fine of $49,000 levied by the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection (NDEP). Mendiola and Deputy District Attorney Gabrielle Carr both suggested that the County pay the fine, as any attempt to appeal would delay progress on the water project and ultimately cost more than the fine itself.

Commissioner French, however, voiced his opposition to paying the fine, as the circumstances leading to the fine occurred before Humboldt County took over the McDermitt GID.

At the Aug. 21 meeting, Deputy DA Carr presented another option from NDEP. In lieu of the fine settlement, the HCC could elect to pay 125 percent of the fine settlement amount toward a NDEP-approved project. Doing so would resolve the order of violation.

The HCC hopes to direct the amount, approximately $2,437, toward resolving the McDermitt water problem. That plan needs to be approved by the NDEP. If rejected, the HCC could pay the amount toward an approved sage grouse habitat rehabilitation project involving land in Humboldt County.