Methyl Mercury and other Chemicals of Concern
The source of Steamboat Creek (Little Washoe Lake) is heavily contaminated with Methyl Mercury. And in fact, has been listed as an area of "high risk" for superfund status since 1996. The sediment in that lake has this Methyl Mercury down quite a few feet. This was from the ore smelting that occurred on the shores in the 1800’s during the Comstock mining boom.
Over the years, and with each significant flood event, that Methyl Mercury gets washed downstream through Steamboat Creek and is dispersed over the land during flood events. Sample testing on the land from Damonte Ranch to Donner Springs shows that that Methyl Mercury has leached into the land that the City has allowed building on. That they continue to allow building on.
As long at this chemical is stagnant (meaning not disturbed) then it should not be dangerous. But when earth is moved for a development or a roadway project, then that dangerous chemical is spread in both the water and the air. Arsenic is another dangerous compound that is prevalent in the land along the Steamboat Creek watershed, but that does not seem to cause concern with those that approve development.
Methyl Mercury is so dangerous that the RTC (Regional Transportation Commission) removed the entire stream restoration portion for their second permit application for the Southeast Connector project to try and avoid an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that would have been demanded by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, the USECC (Upper South East Communities Coalition) and other private and government entities.
According to studies done by both the Regional Transportation Commission and Lennar Development who, in 2006, wanted to buy the Butler Ranch North for a development project with 1300 homes on 216 acres; the Butler Ranch North and the Butler Ranch South each are heavily contaminated with Mehyl Mercury, Arsenic, Boron, Phosphorus and other chemicals of concern (COC's).
The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC) wants to put a six lane highway over this land and use the contaminated material (dirt) as fill for their project. Fill estimates range from approx 5 feet to 23 feet in depth. In other words, RTC wants to spend months digging it up and then piling it up for road base and putting asphalt on top of it.
All this to be done in a designated flood water storage area by the Cities of Reno and Sparks, Washoe County and the Army Corps of Engineers. It is in a FEMA designated flood-way and in a Critical Flood Zone. In addition, in the same exact spot as the Truckee River Flood Project's Truckee Meadows Reach. So, two massive infrastructure projects will go in the exact same location and will affect the exact same communities and neither one is factoring in the effects and impacts of the other.
Sources of methylmercury