Student examines Pine Nut soils |

Student examines Pine Nut soils

by Sharlene Irete

Hale Fillmore’s family held their annual sun dance on someone else’s land last year. Hale said he thinks it was because their Washoe tribal allotment land in the Pine Nut Mountains is polluted.

“People put in septic tanks and it’s polluting the Carson River,” said the Meneley Elementary school fifth-grade student.

Hale used his concern about pollution when it came time to make a project for the science fair at his school. He demonstrated that soil from the Pine Nut Mountains, with its lack of organic material, is not able to absorb water.

His Soil Soaker project was one of the school’s first-place winners entered in the Western Regional Science and Engineering Fair in Reno this week.

Hale posed the question, when it rains in the Pine Nuts, does the water sink in or run off?

“If the soil from the mountains is made of sediments of rock, then the water will have a lower absorption rate than the soils that are made of decomposed organic materials,” Hale wrote in his hypothesis.

He tested his theory by conducting three trials measuring how fast and how much water was absorbed into samples of potting soil, farm soil and soil from the Pine Nut Mountains.

“My hypothesis was right because the Pine Nut soil didn’t absorb water,” Hale wrote.

“Therefore the water in the Pine Nut hills will not soak in, instead it will run off into the roads and rivers.”

Hale’s parents, Benny and Laura Fillmore, hope to retire to their land in the Pine Nuts but are concerned because their lot is located below the densely populated Pine View Estates development where they use wells and septic systems.

“What’s happening in the Pine Nut hills is water is running off because it’s not the right soil to absorb water,” said Hale. “That’s bad. Soon it will pollute our water supply.”

He said people should be educated and convinced not to pollute.

“The problem is people pollute,” he said. “The solution is to fine more often and with more money.”

Hale hopes to present the findings of his Soil Soaker project at a meeting of the Washoe Tribal Council.

“We try to raise them to be social beings,” said Hale’s mother Laura Fillmore. “Hale knows he has a responsibility as an indigenous caretaker of the earth.”

“We go to the Pine Nut Mountains for a dance,” said Hale, 10. “Some people do four days of fasting. I don’t fast, I dance.

“My mom and dad don’t want it polluted and I want to be able to dance on that land.”

From Hale Fillmore’s log book:

Initial observation: I’m worried about scrunched up houses near my dad’s property because if there are many houses close to each other it causes pollution which I don’t want very much.

My dad’s land is in the Pine Nut Mountains east of Highway 395 and south of Gardnerville. We know that the houses use septic tanks because they’re too far away from the Gardnerville sewage treatment system.

We heard from the tribe’s lawyer that the WEPD (Washoe Environmental Protection Department) and the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) are worried about this too. The EPA fined the men who built the houses three times since 2005.

These fines were for water running off the streets, and polluting the Carson River below the Pine Nut Mountains. What my family worries about is that our water supply will be polluted because the soils aren’t the right type to have septic tanks in the soils.