LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — An endangered bird has delayed the $40 million dollar rehabilitation of a Las Vegas sewage facility, which released hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage in two incidents.
The 8 News Now Investigators first alerted the Clark County Water Reclamation District to potential problems at the Whitney Lift Station in 2021. In 2020, the facility, which sits at a low point in the southeast Las Vegas valley near Sam Boyd Stadium, failed. The 2020 failure caused an estimated half-million gallons of wastewater — some of which ended up in a creek that feeds Lake Mead — to spill.
A half-million gallons is almost enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The reclamation district handles 100 million gallons a day.
In June 2023, a piece of equipment at the station failed, causing nearly 900,000 gallons of untreated sewage to overflow, documents said. Crews did not know about overflow for about two days, documents said. The manhole was outside of the facility’s fence line and “outside the view of CCWRD staff,” documents said. A partially closed value between the lift station and a rock catcher caused the spill.
Crews recovered a good amount of the raw sewage, staff said. Testing in the creek did not show elevated bacteria concentrations from the June release. Due to dilution, the amount of raw sewage that entered the creek and the Las Vegas Wash to Lake Mead would have been minimal.
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.”
However, the Yuma Ridgway’s rail, an animal the U.S. Fish & Wildfire Service describes as a “marsh bird the size of a chicken,” has delayed the project. The endangered species was located near the lift station in the nearby Wetlands Park, a reclamation district spokesperson said.
The bird falls outside of a blanket permit, which requires additional environmental review, a spokesperson said. Due to the delay in the project’s start, commissioners will likely have to approve a cost increase.
Officials with the reclamation district were hoping to break ground earlier on projects they could work on pending review.