Las Vegas Sun

December 21, 2014

Currently: 55° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Residents say treated water is disgusting, but NLV says ‘no smell here’

Image

Steve Marcus

Cliff Chapman looks over the back wall of his daughter’s home as treated wastewater from the new City of North Las Vegas Water Reclamation Facility flows down the Sloan channel Thursday, June 23, 2011. The city originally had planned to build a pipeline to transport the treated wastewater to Lake Mead but the city is now releasing treated water into the channel which flows into Lake Mead.

Wastewater in Sloan Channel

Cliff Chapman leans against the back wall of his daughter's home as treated wastewater from the new City of North Las Vegas Water Reclamation Facility flows down the Sloan channel Thursday, June 23, 2011. His grandchildren play on a trampoline in the background. The city originally had planned to build a pipeline to transport the treated wastewater to Lake Mead but the city is now releasing treated water into the channel which flows into Lake Mead. Launch slideshow »

Amber Blake’s plan for the perfect Father’s Day was scuttled by a most unlikely culprit — the knee-weakening stench wafting from the Sloan Channel into her backyard.

Two weeks ago, the North Las Vegas Water Reclamation Facility, a sewage treatment plant, began discharging treated wastewater into the channel, which empties into Las Vegas Wash and flows into Lake Mead, the source of 90 percent of the valley’s drinking water.

When the discharge began, Blake said the water appeared clear. Then she noticed the water had the greens and yellows of an oozing wound mixed in. The smell, which Blake says is worse in the early morning and at night, came with it.

“My kids are so grossed out,” she said. “They can see it when they jump on the trampoline (and look over the backyard wall). My oldest daughter told me ‘it looks like someone went to the bathroom in there.’ ”

On Father’s Day, the children couldn’t spend more than a few minutes in the backyard before they retreated into the house.

Even the guest of honor, Blake’s dad, a plumber accustomed to the odors that come with his job, was stultified by the stink.

“Smells like a sewer line busted,” said Cliff Chapman. “It was overwhelming.” The smell is powerful enough to reach his house, about 20 houses south of his daughter’s.

Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins, whose district includes that area, said his office has received emails and phone calls about the smell.

Clark County is in the middle of a legal tussle with North Las Vegas over whether the city has the right to dump wastewater into the channel, so Collins isn’t exactly a North Las Vegas defender. But he said the smell might be the result of engineers trying to get the plant up to speed.

He was told during a meeting with plant managers awhile back that tweaking the system could take 30 to 40 days.

“They’re experimenting and going to be practicing as they bring it up to full operation,” Collins said.

But North Las Vegas officials are scratching their heads over the complaints. Plant Administrator Dave Commons said the facility is slowly increasing the amount of wastewater treated from 2 million gallons a day to 25 million gallons. Had the plant tried on the first day to treat 25 million gallons, the discharge would likely smell because the plant wasn’t up to speed, he acknowledged.

But he said he drove the length of the Sloan Channel on Wednesday to the Las Vegas Wash and detected no odor.

He added that he has so far received no complaints — Chapman said his wife, Nancy, emailed a complaint to Commons after Father’s Day.

The smell that city officials can’t detect, but that Amanda Blake and her father can’t stand, only highlights the North Las Vegas versus Clark County battle begun in federal court. At issue is North Las Vegas’ belief that it has the right to dump treated wastewater into Sloan Channel without the approval of Clark County, which maintains the channel.

North Las Vegas had not always intended to use the channel. But when the city appeared to tire of negotiating with the county, it decided June 9 to begin discharging treated wastewater into the channel. The city’s goal is to free itself of paying to use the Las Vegas treatment plant, which North Las Vegas claims charges $30,000 a day. Why use the Las Vegas facility when it has its own $300 million plant ready to go?

The county said the reason is simple: North Las Vegas has no right to use the Sloan Channel, which is maintained by Clark County.

Immediately after the water began to flow, North Las Vegas filed a federal lawsuit seeking affirmation of its right to use the channel. Clark County filed an injunction to stop the flow a week later. Then the county refiled the injunction in state court after a federal judge wondered if he even had jurisdiction.

Meanwhile the water flows, and Blake isn’t happy. She has a young daughter who has had a respiratory illness since birth. Before June 9, the girl played in the backyard when she wasn’t tied to a breathing machine. Now the smell is so bad, “it prevents her from going out and playing.”

“They’re breaking the law and their damaging my children’s health,” Blake said.

Collins sees it as just the way North Las Vegas does business with its neighbors.

“The city hasn’t had a good reputation in a long time,” he said. “This just makes it worse.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 9 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. If properly treated the discharge will not smell.

    In fact, if properly treated it is drinkable. This has been proven many times over in many cities. All of New Orleans water is treated waste water as they are below sea level and is required. I have been through their plant and have drunk the water. It is as clear and sweet as can be and better tasting than most municipal water products.

  2. Dale is Correct! If NLV is not treating wastewater correctly then action and independent monitoring should take place. If the only issue is that NLV is deteriorating the Sloan Channel, transfer maintenance and Legal responsibility to NLV. The water should Never Smell and the EPA investigate.

  3. "They're experimenting and going to be practicing as they bring it up to full operation,"...

    YIKES!!!

  4. This plant isn't needed. Its a county responsibility not a city resonsibility. NLV originaly built this plant because las vegas was growing and they felt they needed their own plant. Since the county has improved the plant in their area and the NLV plant is not needed.

    To top it all off they want to use the counties property to dump their waste in.

  5. I live on the SouthEast fence on this Waste Water Treatment Plant. My main complaint about it is the way ALL agencies ram rodded it down the neighboring resident property owner's throats (even to the level of not adequately advertising the public meetings). Also, meetings need to be held to readdress the landscaping along the perimeter of the facility. Currently, all there is only a chain link fence and dirt. The plant at Desert Inn and Rainbow Blvd. looks much nicer. We are being discriminated against because of our poor area of lower income folks. It is a disgrace to have this BLIGHT across from Martin Luther King,Jr. Park and Elementary School. Appropriate landscaping is in order, please!

    And it would be great if they would kindly water what pine trees are still left alive on the "abandoned golf course" to keep it looking green for the area residents. Thank you.

  6. Yes, the water is ready to drink, But what if you put said water in a channel that is filled with Algae and other allergens. You get what would happen if a pool was left untreated, vast outgrowth of Algae! NLV is so stupid! I hope the residents in said area go for a class action lawsuit for exposing the public to toxins cause by the Algae outbreaks near their neighborhoods.

  7. The area neighborhood residents are poor, living either paycheck to paycheck, or are renters/Section 8/Welfare. It is unlikely that there are any attorneys here in Las Vegas willing to represent us in a Class Action Lawsuit, especially because it also involves dealing with the United States Nellis Air Force Base, Clark County, City of North Las Vegas, various other agencies and engineers. Conflict of interests.

    Then there is the burden of proof. That takes both time and money, and a disinterested party to take the samples and do the readings, present the results. Again, the area residents lack the financial resources and ability to do this.

    Everything is stacked against the CITIZEN/NEIGHBORS of this WWTP project, and they(City of North Las Vegas, Nellis AFB, Clark County, politicians, et al) knew/know it, and EXPLOIT this fact.

    I didn't get the way I am overnight. The reality is that I have been a proponent of waste water technology for over 35 years! Also I have personal experiences in the subject. It really bothers me that government agents have bullied their way into and through this project, doing harm to the citizens who must deal with this plant being in their backyard without much of their consent. Shame, Shame, Shame!

  8. I live on the East side of the Sloan Channel on Toiyabe St. All I hear is that this is illegal... So why is someone not in jail? The judges orders were broken and still the water is running. It seems that not only do we have to deal with the odor from the waste water but now the humidity seems to have went up greatly by the running water in my back yard... No one is happy that this waste water is running through our neighborhood. but what can we all do about it? I guess we can sigh the petition that Crystal Brewer put up..But is this going to become a health issue for the children and seniors or anyone living within this running waste water that NLV is sending though the neighborhoods? Where is Erin Brockovich at? We NEED someone that really cares about our area.. We are seniors, middle class, section 8 and welfare neighborhood. BUT don't we have rights... I hope some attorney will come to the rescue of the people of the area of the Sloan Channel and try to protect our health and neighborhood. Make NLV run piping to run their waste water without exposing the locals with it..