Class-Action Suit: Tuesday 6/18

The plaintiffs are still calling their witnesses.  Luke Busby recalls Janelle Thomas (civil engineer, previously with Reno) to the stand.  He asserts that she has been identified by Reno as the person most knowledgeable about flows into Swan Lake including their flood mitigation and policies.  She approved development projects with respect to their storm-water flows.  Reno’s permit for RSWRF discharge from NDEP allows them to raise the level in Swan Lake up to the 100-year flood levels which would flood many residents.  She did not discuss this permit and its likely effects with others in the planning department.  Busby produced a map showing that Reno has annexed most of the area around Swan Lake.  Busby asked “Did you feel political pressure to approve certain developments?”  She answered “No.”  Busby asked if she had any doubt about the hydrological reports paid for by developers.  She said “No.”  She does not think they are compromised since they are signed by licensed engineers.  Reno, as a city, did not build any retention or detention basins.  Reno was processing new development plans as of the time of her departure in April 2018.  She was not familiar with the details of the 800,000 sqft. Makita warehouse approved for the shore of Swan Lake.  She said that the point of detention ponds was to “meter the flow” so as to reduce flooding.  Chandeni Sendell handled the re-cross-examination discussing retention and detention basins.  Thomas asserted that retention basins were required in closed basins.  Busby handled the re-direct with more discussion of detention basins.

Roger Doyle called Robert Zonki to the stand.  Zonki is the supervisor of the RSWRF plant.  He reports to Joe Coudriet  in the Public Works Department.  He supervises 4 employees at the plant.  He oversees the operation of the plant mostly monitoring the automated control system (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System).  The data collected by the SCADA system is reported quarterly to the state.  Most of the area served by RSWRF is south of the airport or south of Swan Lake.  The interaction seemed terse, almost confrontational.  RSWRF has two inlets at the north end of the plant.  One inlet supports customers to the West while the other supports customers to the East.  During the summer, there is often no flow to Swan Lake since there is a high demand for effluent for irrigation.  There is also demand to fill the ponds at the Sage Ridge Golf Course.  In the winter, a small amount of the effluent goes to dust control, but the rest flows to Swan Lake.  Zonki was seen in a discussion with McKean (Reno attorney), but Zonki said that nothing was discussed about the case.  Zonki does not recall details of his deposition on this case.  RSWRF itself has a retention pond to compensate for the impermeable surfaces on its site.  RSWRF sometimes gets surface water flowing into its inlets, but most of it goes directly to Horse Creek.  Doyle shows a log of flow data from January 8, 2017.  On this day the outlet flume (measuring device) was overflowing.  It could not show the accurate flow, since it could only indicate a maximum of 3.2 mgd flowrate.  Doyle scrolled through the spreadsheet file that had data taken every minute.  He identified all the times of excess flows, and calculated that from January to April there were over 83,000 minutes (58 days equivalent) when the flow was so high that the flume was overflowing.  There was a peak reading of the flow through the clarifiers of 7 mgd.  The NDEP permit allows 4.1 mgd peak and 2.38 mgd average over 30 days.  Zonki said he had informed NDEP.  The flowrate instruments are calibrated at the average expected flowrate.  The maximum reading on the instruments will not be as accurate.  The storm sewers also contributed runoff to the flow at the RSWRF inlet so that it took 6-7 hours for the plant to catch up.  Doyle had a video showing water flowing over the top of the measuring flume.  In 2016, Reno made no plan to address a wet winter in the North Valleys.  There was a system installed to divert some of the inlet from RSWRF (to TMWRF?) but this system failed due to a design flaw.  The defense did not cross-examine Zonki.

Kerry Doyle called Gladis Estrada to the stand.  She resides at 11740 Tupelo since 2003.  She lives with her husband and 4 children.  Her father-in-law lives in a travel trailer on the property.  They experienced flooding in January 2017 and were able to improve it by clearing the drainage ditches.  In February the lake level was rising and flooded her property.  Her house was tagged as uninhabitable with the septic system flooded and the electrical service turned off.  Her household moved in with her niece all sharing a one-bedroom apartment for four weeks.  She had to recover the two ski-doos that had floated off the trailer and were going down the street.  She received a list of necessary repairs from Washoe County in July 2017.  The Estradas made the repairs and moved back in in August.  McKean did the cross-examination for Reno and showed photos of homes in the neighborhood that hadn’t been flooded.  He asked about the timeline for their flooding.  On re-direct, Kerry showed photos of a home a block away that had about 18″ of dirty water flooding every room.  It was disturbing.

Luke Busby called Clark Edward Stoner III to the stand.  He’s an expert on North Valleys hydrology retained by the plaintiffs.  Stoner was specifically retained to find out if there is a “hydraulic link” between Silver Lake and Swan Lake.  Specifically, was water from Silver Lake contributing to the flooding in Swan Lake?  Yes, Reno is pumping water from Silver Lake via the Moya Lift Station to the RSWRF inlet.  This flows to Swan Lake from the RSWRF outlet.  Basically, the Moya lift station on the shore of Silver Lake had storm run-off infiltrating its inlet so that it was pumping a lot of runoff along with sewage.  This water included runoff in storm drains that were submerged by Silver Lake.  The history of water pumping showed that the Moya station had pumped 279 more acre feet of water and sewage to the RSWRF plant in 2017 than in 2016.  It was nearly double.  It is still going on, but year-long data for 2018 is not yet available.  NDEP had been informed of this.   Busby produced a receipt for the rental of a trailer-mounted pump that for use by the city to pump out the Silver Lake storm sewers.  In Stoner’s opinion, the sewer system around Silver Lake was designed to pump millions of gallons of lake water into Swan Lake via RSWRF.  Stoner said he was not aware of any mitigation measures taken by Reno.  Renting the pump makes it look like Reno knew the water level in Silver Lake would rise.  The other conclusion Stoner drew was that there was no flow from Silver Lake to Swan Lake on the surface, or through natural channels.  Shipman handled the cross examination asking about the lift station and the RSWRF plant.   The RSWRF plant is quite old; built to serve the National Guard facility before there were housing developments.  Stoner agreed that his work was something of a “forensic analysis” of the flooding factors.  On re-direct, Busby talked about the characteristics of septic tanks.  Stoner said that urbanization really requires a modern waste water treatment plant.  The Moya lift station had been “reconstructed” in 2006 to a much higher capacity.  This was coincident with the city annexing Silver Lake.  Stoner “The city had 10 years to prepare for a bad storm by fixing their inlet lines to prevent the infiltration of runoff.”  On re-cross, Shipman challenged Stoner’s assertion that the lift station was used for “de-watering” Silver Lake.





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