Authorities responded over the weekend to an estimated 15-gallon sewage spill at the Fresh Ketch restaurant at Tahoe Keys Marina in South Lake Tahoe.
Marina operators allege the spill was caused by sabotage — two tenants being evicted who flushed plastic bags down the toilet until a sewer line backed up, then photographed the spill outside and sent the pictures to regulatory agencies and at least one online media outlet.
Bryan Vyverberg, senior environmental health specialist for El Dorado County’s Environmental Health Department, responded to the restaurant Saturday after the spill was reported.
“I did a walk around the property and there were puddles of I’m sure it was sewage behind the restaurant. So at that point I went in, introduced myself to staff and told them they needed to contact a plumber immediately,” Vyverberg said.
Sewage spilled onto pavement next to the lake after a clogged sewer line backed up into an approximately 2 foot by 3 foot overflow vault and filled it. The spill is suspected to have started Friday evening and was not flowing much sewage on Saturday, Vyverberg said.
Vyverberg said the system was fixed Saturday and functioning properly when inspected Monday.
“At this point we would say the condition has been corrected. I don’t have a specific (cause) for the blockage,” Vyverberg said.
Robert Spinnato, general manager for Tahoe Keys Marina, blames the disgruntled tenants.
“This has been an occurring problem,” Spinnato wrote in an email to reporters. “These problems started because we are in the process of evicting two tenants for not paying their bills. They are trying to cause problems.”
Chad Holdren, front desk supervisor at Tahoe Keys Marina, said it “absolutely was sabotage. They were pulling out plastic bags nonstop,” he said.
Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board collected water samples from the lake Monday and found “slightly elevated concentrations” of fecal coliform bacteria, according to Lauri Kemper, assistant executive director.
“We’re looking for the extent to which there is bacterial contamination in the area,” Kemper said. “We plan to conduct additional sampling (Tuesday) afternoon and will have results by Thursday morning.”
Sewage discharges into Lake Tahoe and surface waters in the basin are prohibited. Fines can range up to $10,000 per day or $10 per gallon for violations, Kemper said.