By Mike Donahue & Vernon Robison
Moapa Valley Progress
Members of the Moapa Band of Paiutes joined with the Sierra Club and other environmental activists on Earth Day, April 22, to protest the Southern Nevada Health District’s approval last October of an application to expand a coal-ash landfill at the Reid Gardner power plant in Moapa.
Protesters gathered outside the district’s Shadow Lane offices in Las Vegas to re-register their unhappiness with NV Energy’s proposal which was approved by the health district board last fall. The proposal will facilitate the relocation of a landfill from the Muddy River bed to the mesa southeast of the plant. The proposal would also increase the existing landfill by an additional 24 acres.
Southern Paiutes at Friday’s demonstration complained that the landfill and evaporation ponds operated by the coal-fired power plant is responsible for numerous health problems suffered by many reservation residents. Tribe members say that the coal-ash dust blows from the plant on windy days and often falls like snow across the reservation, dusting vegetation, buildings, cars and people.
But NV Energy officials say that the proposed expansion would move the landfill further away from the river and further from the Paiute residents.
“NV Energy is working collaboratively with the State of Nevada NDEP to remove sources of potential contaminants from the vicinity of the Muddy River flood plain area,” said NV Energy spokesman Mark Severts in an interview with the Progress. “The landfill expansion is a cornerstone to allow that to happen. Without the permit, relocation of these wastes will be delayed. Therefore, the best environmental solution is to proceed with relocation of the existing wastes up and away from the Muddy River which is also further away from the Moapa Band of Paiutes.”
The proposed new landfill would also include an industrial lining to prevent materials from seeping through into the water table, NV Energy officials said.
But Daniel Galpern, an attorney of the Western Environmental Law Center in Eugene, OR, who represents the Sierra Club, said the single liner is not enough. Galpern has said that millions of gallons of leachate per year could enter the groundwater, the Muddy River and eventually Lake Mead. He claims a review of the reports that NV Energy provided after the health district okayed the landfill expansion, “clearly establish that substantial – indeed enormous – quantities of leachate have been generated within the landfill and will continue to be generated there and to migrate to groundwater.”
Charles H. Norris, an expert for a geology and hydrology consulting firm in Denver said NV Energy should be required to show potential impacts the landfill expansion might have.
“Only after that is done can the board … determine whether the proposal (to expand the landfill) will, in fact, prevent degradation of waters of the state,” Norris wrote. “But, not yet. The applicant has yet to do its job.”
“NV Energy has shown that the landfill will have minimal impact upon the groundwater,” said Severts. “And there is an extensive groundwater monitoring network already in place for verification.”
“NV Energy’s Reid Gardner Generating Station maintains a fully compliant industrial waste storage area,” Severts continued. “The existing landfill is designed to the present Class C landfill requirements administered by the appropriate regulator, the Southern Nevada Health District. For example, the barrier to be installed in the new expansion is above and beyond current regulatory requirements.
“Unfortunately, some out-of-state organizations have orchestrated and partially funded special attention to the Reid Gardner Generating Station because of their national agenda to disrupt operations at as many coal-fueled power plants as possible.”