As you drive into the Highland Hills community the first thing you notice is the undulating surface of the street, and it isn’t a speed bump.
“The road has been repaired twice since 2008 and now it is sinking again,” said Bob Roth, president of the Highland Hills HOA. An immediate concern is for the water and sewer lines that are in the street. Roth is concerned that “If the water line breaks it will require the street to be dug up, and we may not be able to get to our houses.”
Unfortunately, the sinking street is just a symptom of the larger issue facing the neighborhood: much of the development is built on the site of a former city dump. At the January 2014 HOA meeting, many residents found out for the first time about the dump. And, according to Roth, they found out the City of Mesquite and the Southern Nevada Health District knew about it, and has been testing for methane gas within the development since 2005.
“My house was the first one built on the street in 2008, but no one told me about the dump or the methane issue,” Roth said. The complaint is the same for other residents. James and Barbara Stroup in their testimony to the City Council last week asked “What normal person would purchase a house knowing it was on an old landfill?”
But for resident Bill Harding, uncertainty is the worst problem. “I’m 71 and my retirement is in my house. What would I do if something happened and I needed money out of the house.” Anna Harding, Bill’s wife adds “We had no notice, there was nothing on the title report even though the city, the Southern Nevada Health District, the water district and everyone else seemed to know about it.”
In February, representatives of the HOA met with city attorney Cheryl Hunt, city manager Andy Barton and other city staff. “They were polite and listened, but so far there has been no response,” said Roth. At the end of the meeting the HOA representatives were told that Hunt would get back to them, but Roth says that “We have heard nothing from Hunt and she doesn’t return my phone calls.”
City Manager Andy Barton said the city is well aware of the problems, “This is a complex issue and we’re still trying to get to the bottom of this. There are a lot of pieces to put together and a soon as we have it figured out we will issue a statement.”
Part of the problem is the number of agencies and people involved, according to Barton. In addition to the city, the landfill involves the health district as well as current and past developers and property owners.
The HOA has taken some steps on its own, most recently hiring Landmark Testing and Engineering to drill two test holes in the subdivision to determine what was underneath the homes and the depth of materials. One boring was adjacent to the driveway of a home that has been recently vacated over health concerns. The results were given to the HOA on April 7.
The borings showed that the landfill cap was from 20 to 25 feet below the surface and
depth of landfill debris was 50.5 feet in one hole and 35.5 feet in the second. The cap or cover of the landfill was composed of “sandy clay/clayey sand.”
According to the report “Landfill debris appeared to consist of plastics, glass, wood, organics, metal and other landfill debris.” The borings also encountered “spongy” material and “Sandy soil (that) appeared very moist to wet directly above the clay cap.”
To date the HOA has spent over $5,000 documenting the extent of the problem, and believes that the city should be doing the borings and not the homeowners.
But for now, Highland Hills residents wait for answers.