Reno agencies try to stem rodeo pollution

January 4, 2010
By The Associated Press

Officials in Reno are beginning to make plans to trap and treat animal waste from the annual Reno Rodeo in June.

The Truckee Meadows Water Authority is putting up $75,000 from its Truckee River Fund, while the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority is chipping in $10,000. Reno city officials will put in $15,000 worth of staff time.

The event draws up to 1,000 horses and cattle. When the rodeo's in town, water treatment officials say there's a sudden spike of pollutants believed to be associated with animal waste.

"You don't want to see that in the river," said Ron Penrose of the Truckee Meadows Water Authority. "You really don't want to see that real bad stuff going into the storm drain that winds up in the river eventually."

Rodeo operators say cleanup of animal waste and other debris is a top priority, and loads of manure and straw are removed daily. But there's really no way to capture it all, and some inevitably reaches the river.

"At the rodeo, you've got an intense concentration of livestock fecal matter," Penrose said. "They do have some control measures, but they're probably not sufficient."

Water authority officials find high levels of organic carbon and coliform in the river near the Glendale water treatment plant during and immediately after the rodeo.

During last summer's rodeo, experts from the city of Reno were able to connect rodeo livestock to pollutants in the river, said Penrose and Terri Svetich, Reno's acting engineering manager.

Officials plan to build an on-site drainage treatment system that will direct the worst of the pollution into the sewer system, "where it belongs," Penrose said. It will then flow to the Truckee Meadows wastewater plant in Sparks for treatment.

The system also would help clean other storm water runoff, allowing sediments to settle and stay out of the river.

It's the best way to deal with waste from the rodeo's horses and cattle, Svetich said.

"I'm not going to put diapers on all of them," she said.

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