Massive Sewage Spill Near Nevada’s Lake Mead Blamed on Partially Closed Valve

Posted on: June 9, 2023, 04:55h. 

Last updated on: June 9, 2023, 11:12h.

Last week’s overflow of 863K gallons of wastewater at a sewage treatment station near Nevada’s Lake Mead was because of a partially open valve, according to recent reports.

Water in a creek that flows into Nevada's Lake Mead
Water in a creek that flows into Nevada’s Lake Mead, pictured above. The creek was tested for bacteria levels after a sewage overflow. (Image: KTNV)

The overflow began on June 1 after Clark County Water Reclamation District (CCWRD) workers finished what appeared to be routine maintenance at the Whitney Lift Station, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. A valve was not fully shut, the report said.

Spill Not Seen

Wastewater soon began flowing out of a manhole, which is situated beyond a fence at the pumping facility. Crews were unaware of the spill.

The “exact location of the spill occurred outside of the perimeter of the lift station itself and outside the view of District staff,” CCWRD spokesperson Kimberly Adler revealed in a recent statement to the Review-Journal.

A total of 863,625 gallons of sewage spilled over two days, according to recent estimates. Some of the wastewater made its way into the nearby Duck Creek that flows into Lake Mead.

It was not until Saturday that crews with specialized gear arrived to clean up the spill. Cleanup continued into this week.

Bacteria Levels

Adler claimed the spill had “no impact to public health or the environment,” the Review-Journal reported.

The CCWRD has performed tests on water in the creek. They did not indicate higher levels of bacteria, according to KLAS.

Upon hearing about the spill, staff at the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection launched its own inquiry, the Review-Journal reported. The CCWRD could be fined by the state agency if district workers were culpable for the spill, the report added.

Both the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the regional Southern Nevada Health District were aware of the overflow, too.

About 281,500 gallons of the overflow was recovered over last weekend by workers using trucks equipped with specialized vacuums, a backhoe, and a loader. Workers continued to clear up overflow-stained dirt at or near the treatment plant on Tuesday, according to KLAS.

But more than 57K gallons of the wastewater flowed into Duck Creek, Las Vegas TV station KVVU reported. It is unclear how much made its way into Lake Mead, a major reservoir that supplies Las Vegas with 90% of its water.

The CCWRD said such overflows must be avoided.

Although sanitary sewer overflows do occur while operating a sanitary sewer system, they are never acceptable to the District who remains committed to ensuring a safe and reliable wastewater collection and treatment system for unincorporated Clark County,” Adler’s statement said.

The Whitney Lift Station is located near Sam Boyd Stadium in the southeast Las Vegas Valley. It is one of 24 in Clark County operated by the CCWRD.

The same treatment plant saw a failure in 2020, reportedly from a corroded pipe. That led to a 500K gallon sewage spill, KLAS reported.

It is unknown if the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection fined the reclamation district for the 2020 spill.

In 2021, the district revealed in a report that “The Whitney Lift Station has experienced frequent outages due to equipment failures and line blockages putting the 22-year-old facility at high risk of sanitary sewer overflows.”

The station is scheduled to undergo renovations.