So far so good for Minden well |

So far so good for Minden well

by Sheila Gardner

So far, so good for Minden’s Well No. 1.

That was the progress report Wednesday after 1.8 million gallons of water were pumped in a two-day period to determine if the well had been contaminated by a nearby leak of the controversial fuel additive MTBE.

Town engineer Bruce Scott and public works director Greg Hill both said there appeared to be no contamination from a leak of methyl tertiary butyl ether at the nearby Minden Beacon station.

The successful pump test paves the way for the town’s oldest well to be back in service, three years after the leak was discovered.

“As far as I know, it was all non-detect,” said Scott. “Phase two is a two-to-five-day test to make sure the water quality is good on a sustained basis. We’ll take a sample every day. Assuming the five-day test is clean, the next step is putting the well on line.”

Minden Beacon owner Dave Mills, who estimated he has spent well over $250,000 to clean up the spill, said Friday he wants to put the hassle behind him.

“I am just real glad that everything is working out and the well is OK. I would like to get some closure to my life on this subject,” he said. “We have 10 monitoring wells that we are checking on a monthly basis. It’s very expensive to have those tests done. Instead of monitoring every month, we can go to a quarterly monitoring, and if the levels stay down for a year, the case gets closed.”

One of Mills’ consultants, J.D. Akenhead of Akenhead Compliance in Las Vegas, sent a letter to Allen Biaggi, administrator of the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection, raising a number of issues about the spill and the cleanup.

Akenhead said he obtained records from the state water engineer’s office indicating that the town continued to operate the well for a year after the leak was discovered, pumping 110 million gallons of water after contamination was reported near the site. The contamination was never found in the town’s water supply, but the well was shut off as a safety precaution.

The leak was reported in October 1997, but state records indicate the well was pumped through August 1998, Akenhead said.

Scott said Friday he wouldn’t dispute Akenhead’s figures or timeline, but he disagreed with other points about a final meeting before the town authorized the pump test.

“I don’t completely agree with this letter, I’m not quite sure why this isn’t something we could have discussed first with Mr. Akenhead, but it’s his choice, obviously, to write the letter,” Scott said.

Akenhead complained to Biaggi that he and Mills were excluded from a March 17 meeting with town officials when a decision was made to finally test the well.

“The purpose of that meeting was to get the town board to a comfort level where they felt it was reasonable to turn the well on. It wasn’t technical in any way. Mr. (Jeff) Collins, Mr. Mills’ evironmental manager, was invited so Mr. Mills would have some insight. We did not discuss or dispute any theoretical solutions,” Scott said.

“The big picture is that we’ve had a successful, two-day test. Things look good, we’ve got our fingers crossed and want to get past this like everyone involved,” Scott said.

Mills is suing his former gasoline supplier, Toms Sierra Nevada of Colfax, Calif., accusing the company of installing faulty equipment which led to the leak and cleanup expenses.

MTBE is a fuel additive which gained widespread use in the early 1990s because it contributed to cleaner air. MTBE in a water source, however, causes major problems.