Stead Sewer Plant Expansion Denied

The plan to expand the wastewater treatment plant capacity at Stead (RSWRF) was denied unanimously by the Reno Planning Commission last night.  This was a great meeting with incisive questions, informative answers, and insightful discussion.

The proposal is to expand the capacity of the plant from 2.0 million gallons per day to 4.0 million gallons per day.  As it is, the treated wastewater flows into Swan Lake.  There is no alternate routing of the waste water as part of this proposal (Proposed_Stead-Plant_Expansion_051519)

Residents expressed the following concerns.

  • The water level in Swan Lake is still rising.
  • There is only one foot of freeboard (height not submerged) on the Hesco barriers.
  • The contribution of effluent to the level of Swan Lake is significant.
  • The number of evaporative ponds has been decreased: these are full.
  • Stantec did the hydrology report for the Prado development as well as for the new treatment plant.  It looks questionable.
  • Closing the Lemmon Valley wastewater plant was considered in 2006, but never implemented.  The residents lack confidence in official commitments.
  • There are 17,000 new homes planned for the area.  The infrastructure should have been in place before these plans were approved.
  • Can the Stead plant be upgraded to treating water to an A+ standard so that it can be discharged anywhere?  Can this be part of the plant capacity increase?
  • Why not get a new permit at a reduced level that matches the current effluent flows?
  • The original plant was built in 2006.  The expansion should include improvements to incorporate current technology.
  • The Stead plant has exceeded its permitted effluent flows twice in recent months.
  • FEMA prohibits new development approval in flooded areas until the flooding is mitigated.
  • The Planning Commission is responsible for approving the developments that have resulted in the flooding.

Irene Tudor, a member of the Ward-4 NAB made the following points.

  • Water inflow and outflow is not balanced for Swan Lake.
  • The waste water operating plan was developed in 2013.  The situation is very different now.

Joe Coudriet, Reno Public Works Department, gave a presentation prepared by Stantec.  This included an informative map of planned development in the area.

(Presentation to the Commission – LDC19-00060 (Reno-Stead Water Reclamation Facility) (1))

His points.

  • Given the number of development plans in the North Valleys, the time to plan to expand the treatment plant is now.
  • There is consideration that the Lemmon Valley treatment plant might be decommissioned with the wastewater being redirected to the Stead Plant.
  • The plant expansion will not increase effluent flow to Swan Lake: they are still limited by their current permit (2.35 mgd).
  • It is most cost effective to double the capacity of the plant rather than to increase the capacity incrementally.
  • Plan to “shave” (redirect) 0.5 mgd of untreated sewage directly from the Stead plant to the TMWRF plant (Truckee Meadows Wastewater Reclaimation Facility).  This flow would not end up in Swan Lake.  They plan to move forward with this scheme, but it may not be in operation till early 2022.  The line to TMWRF is nearly complete.  This will not be used to reduce the existing flow into Swan Lake, but rather to allow the Stead plant to handle more than their current permit.

Commissioner discussion:

  • Why not start diverting the 0.5 mgd now to reduce the discharge into Swan Lake rather than diverting later to support additional development?  Answer: such a reduction would upset the operation of the plant.
  • Why not use the pipeline to divert treated effluent so that it does not contribute to the level of Swan Lake?   Answer: this would be possible.  It’s less efficient since the treated effluent would be treated a second time.
  • Why is the diverting pipe so small that it can only handle a fraction of the flow?  Answer: the pipe was existing.  It wasn’t built just for this purpose.  The capacity could be more than 0.5 mgd with limited improvements.
  • If the Stead plant has exceeded its permit capacity before, what gives us confidence that increased plant capacity won’t mean regularly exceeding the discharge permit?  Answer: the plant has only exceeded it’s permit on two occasions (one in 2017) when there was high precipitation.
  • Why expand the Stead plant at all when we don’t want the effluent in that basin?  Why not direct all the sewage to TMWRF for treatment?  Answer: TMWRF has limited extra capacity.  With future development, we may need 6-8 mgd capacity in the North Valleys.  TMWRF does not have 4 mgd extra capacity, but they could handle 2 mgd more if improvements in the connecting line were made.
  • Why don’t we have wastewater treatment capacities that match our growth plans under the new Reno Master Plan?  Answer: this facility plan has been in the Master Plan for 10 years.  We are looking into alternatives.  We understand there is an issue of trust with the public.  We will not increase our wastewater flows above the permitted amount until there is a comprehensive plan in place.
  • If we’re importing water into the basin to support development, where does the water go?  Answer: about half of it goes to a treatment plant.  The rest is consumed.
  • With the improvements to the Stead plant, could we plan to decommission the Lemmon Valley plant?  Answer: Yes, with some modifications.  This will depend on the Reno City Council’s decision.  Extra storage capacity will make it possible to dispose of more water for re-use (golf courses, dust suppression, etc.) which will reduce the flow into Swan Lake.
  • What would it take to improve the discharge water to Class-A+?  Answer: we presently discharge water to the Class-A standard for re-use customers and also to the creek.  It is a higher grade of water than is discharged by TMWRF which is Class-B.  Class-A meets state standards and is considered safe.  Class-A+ is advanced treatment that would be suitable for aquifer recharge.  It is very expensive and the treatment from Class-A to Class-A+ would likely be handled by the water authority (TMWA).
  • Are you planning for some of the big developments being proposed in the North Valleys?  Answer: yes; one mgd capacity will support about 4,500 homes.  The increase to 4 mgd will provide capacity for many new homes.  Some of the large developments being proposed are outside of the Stead-plant service area.

Commissioner discussion

  • Commissioner Marshall was not comfortable approving the plant expansion absent a credible plan to address increasing discharge to Swan Lake.  He doesn’t see this expansion as consistent with the Reno Master Plan.
  • Commissioner Weiske wants to see a discharge plan in place before the plant is expanded.
  • Commissioner Olivas says that sometimes we “bet on the come”, but there are two many holes and unanswered questions in this project.  The flooding shows that the older plan was faulty and having a permit to increase the discharge does not mean that it’s wise to do so with our current information.
  • Commissioner Gower agrees with Commissioners Marshall and Weiske about conformance with the Reno Master Plan.  He wants to take a step back and be more thorough with the overall strategy before moving forward with a piece of it.
  • Commissioner Johnson struggles with the infrastructure issue because this will allow for additional discharge and for additional water to be delivered to the North Valleys.

My impressions …

  1. It looks like closing the Lemmon Valley wastewater plant is not controversial.
  2. A substantial part of the Stead wastewater could be directed to the TMWRF facility.
  3. The Lemmon Valley residents are raising substantial and profound questions.
  4. The Planning Commissioners are really applying themselves to get to the truth.


5 thoughts on “Stead Sewer Plant Expansion Denied

  1. Joe Coudriet stated at this time there is no permit request to increase to discharge into Swan Lake there is a question if this is accurate.


  2. Pingback: No New Waste Water in Swan Lake | Washoe Residents for Appropriate Planning

  3. Pingback: Sewer Bond Approved by the State | Washoe Residents for Appropriate Planning

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