County contracts with new water system operator to avoid fines

As a part of a much larger plan to mitigate high nitrate issues in the water in Grass Valley, the Humboldt County Board of Commissioners has moved forward with a plan to blend the water from two systems, the Star City Water System (attained by the County in 2019) and the Gold Country Water System (attained in 2023) that service Grass Valley residents, to lower the nitrate levels until a Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF) can be implemented.

At their regular meeting on April 1 and with all members present, the Board learned that the current operator of the Gold Country Water System resigned and without a certified operator, the County could face some serious regulatory fines for every day a certified operator is not listed with the water system.  

The Board moved to approve a contract with Grant’s H2O LLC until current operators that are employed by the County can complete the proper certification process which is set to take place in June of 2024. 

According to Public Works Director Dan Ferraro, a certified water operator with at least a Grade D2/T1 certification must be listed on the water systems for regulatory compliance, but the current operators are not Grade D2 certified, but will be Grade D2/T2 certified this summer.

Ferraro explained in his agenda request that staff met with Grant’s H2O LLC on March 22 and they are knowledgeable and willing to operate the system until the County’s staff can attain the proper certification to run the Gold Country Water System. 

Running the two water systems that the County has purchased sets the plan in motion to lower nitrates while the County seeks funding opportunities to construct a WWTF that will cost the County nearly $30 million.

The County is set to drill an entirely new well to run the systems together, blending the weather and diluting the nitrate levels. 

Since more serious discussions have occurred with hopes to address the nitrate issues, the Commissioners have discussed constructing their own facility or potentially forming an agreement with the City of Winnemucca to add on to the system that services Winnemucca residents, but no formal agreements have been made.  

The fee for the water operator services will cost the County $1,500 per month until County staff complete their certifications. 

In other Commission news:

• The Board tentatively approved the budget for the Sixth Judicial District Court for the 2024-25 fiscal year, including adult drug court programs and expenses, juvenile services, family court and much more.

Sixth Judicial District Court Judge Michael Montero was present to present the budget and answer questions from the Board.

According to Judge Montero, the Courts receive much of their monies from the state government and many different types of grants in order to maintain and improve their programs, especially when laws change how things must be done that have fiscal impacts.

• The Board directed staff to gather necessary information for engineering specifications for the new HVAC system in the Orovada Community Hall, utilizing American Rescue Plan Act funding, including a Request for Proposal for a contractor to complete the project.

• The Board approved a request to waive the attrition policy to hire for the Caseworker I/II position in the Child Support Division of the District Attorney’s Office.

• The Board approved a $20,591 emergency expenditure to repair the courthouse main HVAC air-handler.

• The Board approved a request to waive the attrition policy to hire for the position of Library Assistant.

• The Board approved a request to waive the attrition policy to hire for the position of Technology Services Technician.

• The Board approved a request for the Technology Services Department add the new position of Technology Services Coordinator to the department in order to reclassify the job and allow for employee advancement. 

• The Board approved a request to continue with a change order at the McDermitt Public Safety Communication Site to complete the third and last phase of construction. 

• The Board approved a request to waive the attrition policy to hire for the vacant position of Building Inspector I, II, or III.

According to County Manager Don Kalkoske, the waiver allows for the continuation of services in a timely manner and until the County is able to fill the position, the Building Inspector for Winnemucca will be helping the County to maintain services. 

• The Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the BLM for the development of the Wilderness Study Area Invasive Annuals Treatments Environmental Assessment Plan with efforts that began in 2023.

Commissioner Ron Cerri said that he believes that Humboldt County should be involved in the plan and that there will likely be a contact person involved with the BLM and suggested Commissioner Mark Evatz should take the position because of his extensive background with the Nevada Muleys nonprofit organization. 

“[Nevada Muleys] take a lot of interest in helping the BLM and putting money into some of these projects,” explained Cerri.

• The Board denied a request to appoint a qualified person to the Humboldt County Advisory Board for the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners, based on the affirmation that Humboldt County already has qualified individuals on the board that the Commission plans to engage with more frequently.