After being threatened by fires and floods, residents of Pine View Estates may face a more insidious threat, this time from their own wastewater.
Home to about 200 people in the Pine Nut Mountains along Highway 395, residents through their home owners association are seeking an $800,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to replace the sewer plant that started leaking nitrogen and E. coli bacteria, which could end up in their water supply.
The cost of the project is $1.6 million, according to homeowner’s association president Doug Stimpson, who’s organizing a Sept. 28 meeting on the subject in Gardnerville.
Not only are residents threatened by the possibility of wastewater contaminating their drinking water, but according to an attorney involved in the case, the lease may be illegal.
The project is built on 62 acres of Washoe allotment land held by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on behalf of Mark Kizer. Kizer was one of the few Washoe who held an allotment on his own.
According to a letter written by his attorney, Little Fawn Boland, Kizer leased the property to Ray May Sr.’s company, PTP Inc., in 1997 with the approval of the Bureau of Indian Affair’s Western Regional Office.
The property was sold to residents with a 50-year lease and an automatic renewal for another 49 years.
Boland said that Kizer intended to convert the land so it could be sold to the residents. In 2010, the bureau discovered that the sewer plant was leaking and would be subject to an Environmental Protection Agency violation, which was issued Jan. 5, 2011.
After the violation homeowners refused to move forward with converting the land until the sewer plant was fixed.
The bureau retained a consultant to determine the extent of the contamination. At an April 2012 meeting the consultant said the sewer plant was malfunctioning, with nitrogen and fecal coliform contaminating the monitoring wells, the leach fields and potentially the groundwater serving the community. The water system tested within compliance with EPA regulations.
The bureau said it sought funding to fix the system, but the proposal was denied.
In her letter, Boland said that the lease giving homeowners 99 years is in violation of federal laws which only allow a maximum of 50 years, in the form of a 25-year lease and a 25-year extension. Stimpson said that first lease period expires in about nine years, making it difficult for residents to sell their property because it would be difficult to obtain a loan.
She also questioned a provision in the modified lease allowing residents to buy their lots from Kizer for $1,000 each, saying federal regulations generally require non-Indians to pay fair market value for tribal land.
Stempson said he has been in talks with Kizer and the federal government in order to clear up the issue with the sewer plant.
A meeting is set for 11 a.m. Sept. 28 to describe the challenges residents are facing and how much it will cost to fix.