SMITH VALLEY - Lyon County has agreed to cooperate with Nevada's environmental agencies in conducting groundwater contamination studies at the county's only remaining landfill.
The Smith Valley site was used for many years as the community's all-purpose landfill, but it is now restricted to construction and bulk waste. Its current status is reviewed by environmental officials on an annual basis, however, and is still considered an open site.
"It is the prudent thing for all to have the drilling and testing done," Commissioner David Fulstone said. "If they find a problem, we can sit down with the state and Bureau of Land Management to see what we can do from there."
Citing it as one of a handful of rural landfills in Nevada that appear to have the potential to pose a hazard to groundwater, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection environmental scientist Arthur Gravenstein said a timely investigation of the landfill is warranted to minimize potential adverse impacts and would be in the best interests of everyone.
"The soil types and groundwater depth in that area indicate the site does have potential for problems," Gravenstein said. "However, we don't know what we will find. We just can't tell you until we see what we have. And just because we find something, it doesn't mean it will be bad."
The state of Nevada will assume costs for the installation, quarterly sampling for one year and abandonment of four groundwater monitoring wells. According to Division of Environmental Protection officials, the results of the samples will assist Lyon County in evaluating the proposed new landfill site. Positive results would aid in the transfer of the current site to the Bureau of Land Management following its eventual closure.
Commissioners initially questioned the need to work with NDEP in the study process, with the possibility of future mandates and liabilities falling on the county if serious problems were determined.
Noting the county was told by NDEP in 1997 it would have no liability if the dump was closed to general waste by a certain date, Commissioner David Fulstone asked "Are we taking something back (liability) we got rid of? There is a chance we will have to pay for testing after a year (if any problems are discovered)."
Gravenstein agreed the county did not legally have to agree to work with NDEP and had no mandate to do so, but said if the testing were to continue past the first year, the county would have to pay for the quarterly analysis.
"If we find contaminants above the minimum contamination level, there will be a mandate to continue at your own cost," Gravenstein said. "However, speaking as an individual, I will hang in there with you and help solve the problem."