U.S. Water News Online
LAS VEGAS — Southern Nevada's contract trash hauler has agreed to pay a $1 million civil fine and spend $36 million sealing an old municipal waste dump that washed out in 1998 and sent refuse into a wash toward Lake Mead, officials said.
A consent decree involving Republic Services of Southern Nevada, Clark County, the federal Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency was filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas. It needs approval from a federal judge.
The agreement would resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act and obligate Republic Services to long-term operation and maintenance of the 440-acre former solid waste dump three miles east of Las Vegas.
The company agreed to install stormwater controls, cover the dump, collect methane gas and establish a groundwater monitoring system. The work is expected take about two years and be designed to withstand a 200-year storm.
"This essentially memorializes the actions that are required in the ongoing environmental remediation project," said Will Flower, a vice president and spokesman for Republic Services Inc., based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "We've been working diligently with the county and the EPA to get to this point."
Flower said Clark County, EPA and Republic representatives reached the accord last week.
Republic customers could be asked to pay for the work, Flower said, depending on a funding plan yet to be presented to Clark County commissioners.
The question of who will pay for sealing the dump has been a contentious issue in southern Nevada for several years.
Company officials have said Republic already spent $29 million of $36 million it agreed in 1999 to pay toward the landfill remediation project in return for a deal extending its exclusive franchise contract to handle Clark County trash through 2035.
Bob Coyle, Republic Services' area president, told county commissioners this year that the company intended to pay $7 million more, and that trash customers should bear the remaining cost.
Coyle issued a statement saying the company planned to discuss "funding mechanisms" with the commission on Aug. 19.
A statement issued by county spokesman Erik Pappa hailed the plan to seal the landfill "so that public health and the environment are protected."
"We urge the court to approve this consent decree for the benefit of all our citizens," the county statement said.
The EPA said the landfill was operated on behalf of the county by entities related to Republic Services from the 1950's through 1993. It is believed to contain more than 49 million cubic yards of municipal, construction and medical waste, sewage sludge, hydrocarbon-contaminated soils and asbestos.
Following the landfill cover failure in 1998, the EPA ordered a Republic subsidiary and the Clark County Public Works Department to stabilize the site and correct violations of federal clean water laws.
Wayne Nastri, EPA Pacific Southwest region administrator, said the consent decree reflected a federal commitment to protecting natural resources like Lake Mead watershed.
The Lake Mead reservoir, formed by Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, provides nearly all of Las Vegas' drinking water, and also serves the Phoenix area and southern California.
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