On Your Side: Lemmon Valley residents say flood water is making them sick
Kim Siminoe just has been sick for more than nine weeks, and she thinks the flood water surrounding her Lemmon Valley neighborhood is the reason why.
"I've had a really bad cold, my chest, I had pneumonia, I got a really bad rash on my leg that is huge and makes my leg swell up really bad to where it makes me sick and I can't get rid of it," said Siminoe."
She said she's been to the hospital six times and the emergency room twice.
Siminoe said her neighbors have also complained of unexplainable illness and prolonged sickness. Even Siminoe's dogs have gotten sick.
"The dogs, I've spent about $6,000, and me myself, I've spent about $1,500," Siminoe said.
This past winter and spring, Lemmon Valley turned into a retaining pond for a massive amount of rain and snow that fell and also drained into the area. It collected in Swan Lake in Lemmon Valley and pushed over its banks.
Many months later and there's still nowhere for the water to go. Homes are still surrounded by water and an odd stench lingers in the neighborhood. Birds are dead next to the water, thick green algae floats on top of the water and Swan Lake is murky colored. And the water smells funny too.
"I think when I smell it the most is in the morning," said Tammy Holt-Still with the Lemmon Valley/Swan Lake Recovery Committee.
But the problems haven't receded with the flood water. Simone's water from the well tested positive for e-coli. She won't drink it and won't even give it to her dogs. But she wonders what affect it has on her health since she showers in it and the ground around her house is potentially contaminated.
But she won't move. She can't afford it.
"My kids were raised in this house, I love my house and I just don't want to move. I love it out here, I mean, this is my life. This is my whole life right here and now it looks like a war zone," Siminoe said choking back the tears.
News 4 wanted to know what was in the flood waters in Lemmon Valley. Reporter Kim Burrows collected water from three areas and took them to the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory for testing. There was coliform and specifically e-coli present in all the tests. The Washoe County Health District explained the results.
"Just on those three tests that were averaged together, they came to 46.2, which is nearly 10 times under the U.S. EPA exceedance for recreational waters. And it's also under the exceedance for actual swimming beaches," said Phil Ulibarri, spokesman for the Washoe County Health District. "I would not swim in those waters, I would not have my family or my pets swim in those waters. But they are under the US EPA exceedance levels for recreation waters."
He said staff took 85 water samples in 2017 from Swan, Silver and Whit Lake. E-coli was present in the tests.
"They're way below the exceedance level set by the US EPA for recreational waters," Ulibarri said. "I don't think there's anything in the water that's going to cause the rash or respiratory at this time. "
The Nevada Department of Environmental Protection said in an e-mail that staff took water samples in Swan Lake in March and "water quality was below contact recreation standard and, at this time, permitted wastewater facilities are currently in compliance with discharge of treated effluent ... however, flood water is by nature full of bacteria and people should not drink it or play in it. Also, folk should wash well after exposure."
Tammy Holt-Still with the Lemmon Valley/Swan Lake Recovery Committee is concerned that Washoe County isn't doing enough to get rid of the flood waters.
"It needs to be pumped out. The city of Reno needs to stop pumping their effluent water and Washoe County needs to stop pumping effluent water. It needs to go someplace else," she said, referring to the effluent water she was told is being pumped out by Stead Sewer and Lemmon Valley sewer plants.
Residents wish the county would do more to get rid of the bacteria soup that's been here for nine months.
"I wish somebody would have done something more... and sooner," Siminoe said.