Foothill water system in trouble with state |

Foothill water system in trouble with state

The entrance to Sierra Country Estates off of Foothill.
Kurt Hildebrand file photo |

The water system serving a gated community along Foothill has been the subject of several state water violations.

The Nevada Department of Environmental Protection is suing in Douglas County District Court to have a receiver appointed to run the Sierra Country Estates water system.

According to the state, the system has been the subject of a number of violations for failure to comply with the Nevada Public Water Systems law, according to Douglas Public Works Director Carl Ruschmeyer.

On Feb. 22, the state Bureau of Safe Drinking Water issued a finding of an alleged violation. System owners Bill and Marsha Tomerlin replied that they didn’t have the ability to comply with the law, and the state filed in district court.

The water system is also in trouble with the state engineer, which has ordered the system to stop over-pumping and come into compliance with the terms of its water rights permits and water law.

Under an order issued by the state engineer on July 18 to the 20 individual property owners, water meters must be installed at every residential connection by Sept. 16.

County commissioners will discuss the possibility of taking over the water system should a receiver be appointed at their regular meeting on 1 p.m. Thursday.

Ruschmeyer said the water system is failing operationally, has no management structure or operator, and is continuing to accrue state violations.

Bankruptcy and federal litigation have rendered the Tomerlins either unwilling or unable to provide a written offer of dedication of the water system to Douglas County, Ruschmeyer said in his report.

“This puts Douglas County in a difficult and controversial position of trying to accept the dedication of the water system without voluntary participation of the owner,” he said.

If the board of safe drinking water declares the system has failed, state law allows commissioners to decide what action, if any, they should take regarding ownership of the system and address the system’s problems.

The county required the Tomerlins to build the water system when commissioners approve the subdivision in 1993. However, Ruschmeyer said that several conditions the county required for accepting the water system were not met, leaving it in private hands.

The system consists of two wells and a 270,000-gallon water tank, along with distribution pipes.

Some of the violations have existed since the system was installed, including have only a 100-foot buffer between the wells and land used for agriculture, and a lack of adequate easement for access and maintenance.

The water in the system appears to meet drinking water standards, according to the county report.