Cat litter fever

Speaking of powdery substances, that’s pretty much what they’ll be digging out of the ground at the Oil-Dri Corp.'s proposed Reno Clay Plant Project.

Interested locals can still comment on the proposal to build a processing plant for drying, crushing and packaging clay material to be used for cat litter. The Bureau of Land Management has extended its public comment period to Oct. 31 to give parties extra time to look over the final environmental impact statement for the project.

The cute, furry side of kitty litter?

The new facility is expected to contribute $10 million to the local economy and create some 50 to 75 new jobs in its first year. That number of jobs, Oil-Dri promoters say, would grow to about 100 in a three-year period.

But at what cost?

If the mine gets its claws into the hillside, residents and environmentalists say, it could cause serious water and air quality problems for folks in the Lemmon Valley area.

“Air quality is going to be the thing that changes people’s lives,” said Tom Myers of Great Basin Mine Watch. “If you live in the North Valleys, there’s going to be a lot more dust in the air.”

Though the environmental impact statement addresses air quality, the study was completed using data from an air pollution permit application that Washoe County had earlier rejected for lack of information, Myers said.

“We have concerns about using a report submitted to the county that the county has not yet accepted as part of the data for the EIS,” Myers said. “The BLM relied on something the county said didn’t have complete information.”

Also, to monitor change in air quality, regulators would use the air quality in Sparks as the base point to begin measuring impact. That’s another faulty assumption.

“That’s baloney. They’re required to find out what the impact will be, but the air in Sparks is a lot dirtier than it is out there,” Myers said. “The air quality out there is in good shape right now. … Sparks is a long ways to the north.”

Water would also be an issue for the new 345-acre mine. Though the Oil-Dri folks are asking for 40 acre-feet of water resources—a drop in the bucket compared with most mines—that’s more than half of the 70 acre-feet of rechargeable water resources in that basin.

“And that area doesn’t get a lot of snow, so the recharge isn’t that great,” Myers said. “Where does that water go now? It flows into part of Lemmon Valley and the wetlands.”

The environmental statement isn’t sufficiently addressing the impact of adding a large well into an already tapped water system, he said.

“They say there may be an impact, but they haven’t analyzed it,” Myers said. “It’s one more well being added, and the BLM has failed to consider it.”

Copies of the FEIS are available through the BLM Carson City Field Office. Call 885-6000, or look it up online at Public comments must be postmarked by Oct. 31.