LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A sewage facility near a creek feeding Lake Mead, which the 8 News Now Investigators alerted officials about in 2021 after a 500,000-gallon spill, has failed again – this time releasing nearly 900,000 gallons.
The Whitney Lift Station is the largest in the Clark County Water Reclamation District. In 2020, the facility, which sits at a low point in the southeast Las Vegas valley near Sam Boyd Stadium, failed. The failure caused an estimated half-million gallons of wastewater — some of which ended up in a creek that feeds Lake Mead — to spill.
On Thursday, June 1, a piece of equipment at the station failed, causing more than 863,000 gallons of untreated sewage to overflow, documents the 8 News Now Investigators obtained Tuesday said.
Crews recovered nearly 300,000 gallons of raw discharge, leaving about 600,000 gallons to go into the creek or seep into the ground, documents indicated.
The 2020 spill was blamed on a corroded underground pipe. Teams caught about 300,000 gallons of raw sewage, sucking it up with special vacuums. The rest seeped into the ground. An estimated 10,000 gallons poured into the creek.
A half-million gallons are almost enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The reclamation district handles 100 million gallons a day.
The district board of trustees, which is the same body as the Clark County Commission, approved a multi-million-dollar rehabilitation project for the lift station. In 2021, the board described the station as “the largest and most critical lift station in our service area in terms of capacity, location, engineering hydraulic requirements and necessary operational efficiencies.”
At that time, trustee staff wrote, “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 8 News Now Investigators’ 2021 report focused on why a lift station, which had a massive failure, was next to the creek. The current lift station replaced the first Whitney Lift Station, which was put online in the 1970s. The current station was built around 2000.
“This is where it’s needed. This is how the area’s been developed,” CCWRD general counsel David Stoft said at the time. “As wastewater collects, it must use gravity to drain. Whether we like it or not, we are dealing with a situation where a lift station has to be here.”
Crews appeared to be working to remove sewage-laden dirt and debris from the area on Tuesday. It was unclear Tuesday the exact number of raw sewage that entered the creek, therefore entering the water system to Lake Mead.
A spokesperson for the Southern Nevada Health District said it knew of the spill.
“I am monitoring the situation and working closely with stakeholders on the ground,” Democratic Rep. Dina Titus tweeted Tuesday citing the 8 News Now Investigators’ reporting. “We must ensure that southern Nevadans have access to water quality as well as quantity.”
Clark County’s water quality program, which would fine the district, reports to the district. The program’s offices are in the district’s headquarters, too.
It was unclear if the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection had fined the reclamation district for the 2020 spill. In mid-2022, an NDEP spokesperson said the agency had yet to decide.
The district requested 8 News Now not identify the lift station’s exact location, citing homeland security laws.
A spokesperson for the reclamation district declined to comment Tuesday but said he would provide more information soon.