Lahontan hits NTPUD with $30,000 fine for spill
May 2, 2003
TAHOE CITY — The region’s water quality board has fined the North Tahoe Public Utility District nearly $30,000 for polluting Lake Tahoe after up to 4,000 gallons of sewage was dumped at Tahoe Vista beach after a pump failed.
The $29,542 fine came after nearly four months of Lahontan-NTPUD negotiations over a settlement that apparently broke down several weeks ago.
In addition to allegations that NTPUD staff failed to follow district procedure and caused the spill, in its complaint Lahontan claims the overflow led to 20 days of additional bacteriological discharge to the shore of Lake Tahoe “caused by incomplete clean-up of an affected storm drainpipe.”
The district can either pay the fine or contest the complaint at a hearing before the Lahontan Regional Board in the next 90 days.
NTPUD General Manager John Hassenplug said the district has not yet decided whether to challenge the complaint.
Though he declined to comment on whether the district objects to the amount of the fine, Hassenplug conceded the incident legally warranted one. “There’s no question it was a spill,” he said.
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The control board’s Basin Plan, adopted to comply with the California Water Code, prohibits the discharge of treated or untreated domestic sewage to the lake’s surface waters.
On Aug. 9, sewage overflowed from a manhole at 6610 North Lake Blvd. near Tahoe Sands in Tahoe Vista and backed up into a residence on the next block. A failed alarm in the pump station and staff miscommunication delayed intervention as wastewater rose, reported the NTPUD .
August’s was the first spill of its magnitude since 1983, according to the district, and Hassenplug said this is the first civil liability the agency has ever received.
Lahontan Executive Officer Harold Singer said if the district chooses to waive the hearing, it could opt to renew negotiations for a settlement rather than pay the fine in full. That would likely mean the NTPUD would propose an environmental project in lieu of part of the fine.
“I’m still hopeful that maybe we could still reach an agreement,” said Singer. Hassenplug said the district has not yet decided whether to propose an environmental project.