Bacteria levels back to normal after marina spill | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Bacteria levels back to normal after marina spill

Bacteria concentrations around Tahoe Keys Marina were back to normal background levels by Wednesday after a sewage leak at the Fresh Ketch restaurant reported last weekend. Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board will not be doing any more water sampling around the marina, said Lauri Kemper, assistant executive director. Sampling detected elevated concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria in two sites around the marina Monday and Tuesday. "I think we have evidence that some of the sewage made it into the lake," Kemper said. "It occurred and there has been some impact. But it is relatively small compared to other spills we've had in the past." County health officials have estimated the total sewage spill at about 15 gallons. Marina operators blame the spill on sabotage. They claim one or two disgruntled tenants flushed plastic bags down a toilet until a sewer line clogged and backed up into an overflow vault, which then filled and spilled raw sewage into the lake. The marina also alleges that one or both of the men then reported the spill to regulatory agencies without letting the marina know about it. One of those tenants has been formally banned from the Tahoe Keys Marina property and the other is in the process of being evicted, front desk supervisor Chad Holdren said. "We're still evaluating our options, but without full proof of catching somebody in the act we can't really go there," Holdren said about reporting the alleged vandalism to police. "Our employees saw these two people outside laughing and pointing and taking pictures." According to the marina, a plumber came and unclogged the sewer line and pulled out a large number of white plastic bags on May 3. Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board continues to investigate the cause of the spill to determine if the marina property will be ordered to make any upgrades to its sewer system or face penalties for the spill. "We're just gathering any evidence or facts that we can right now. We have to look at the nature and the extent of the violations and the culpability," Kemper said, adding that penalties are not normally imposed for spills caused by vandalism. "That's part of our investigation, too," she said. Discharges of sewage into Lake Tahoe can be penalized by fines of up to $10,000 per day or $10 per gallon.

Sewage spilled at Tahoe Keys restaurant; marina blames sabotage

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.

Sewage spilled at Tahoe Keys restaurant

Authorities responded during the weekend to an estimated 15-gallon sewage spill at Fresh Ketch restaurant at Tahoe Keys Marina in South Lake Tahoe. 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 right 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 sewage spill is suspected to have started Friday evening, Vyverberg said. Vyverberg said the system was fixed Saturday and was 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 at Tahoe Keys Marina, put the blame on someone flushing plastic bags down the restaurant's toilets. "This has been an occurring problem," Spinnato wrote in an email. "These problems started because we are in the process of evicting two tenants for not paying their bills. They are trying to cause problems." Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board collected water samples from the lake Monday for bacterial analysis. That will help determine the extent of the spill and contamination and whether the business will face fines. "We're looking for the extent to which there is bacterial contamination in the area," said Lauri Kemper, assistant executive director for Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. Initial test results should be available by noon Tuesday, Kemper said, adding that testing can be confounded by waste from animals such as birds. "Typically we sample for a few days in a row to watch the (bacteria) levels drop," Kemper said. Sewage discharges into Lake Tahoe and other bodies of surface water in the basin are prohibited. Fines can range up to $10,000 per day, according to Kemper.

Sewage spills into Truckee River

A clogged manhole cover caused a raw sewage spill Sunday that officials believe released 2,000 to 15,000 gallons of sewage into the Truckee River. People are advised to stay out of the area until testing has been completed. The South Tahoe Public Utility District was informed of the spill by a resident who came across the sewage while out for a walk. STPUD personnel arrived at the manhole, located off of Onnontioga Street just north of Omaha, around 5:20 p.m. The manhole is located approximately 150 feet from the river’s edge, across the river from the Lake Tahoe Airport. Dawn Forsythe, district information officer, said the clog, which officials believe was caused by willow branches that were deliberately stuck in the manhole cover, was cleared by 8:13 p.m. Officials said the spill lasted less than 24 hours. “The overflow went into a small stream and then into the Truckee River,” Forsythe said. She explained that the difference in the estimates of how much sewage escaped was due to the difference in expert opinions on the rate of flow. Forsythe added that the high flow rate of the Truckee River would quickly dissipate the sewage. STPUD ran tests at the site. “The results won’t be ready until Tuesday,” Forsythe said. Ginger Huber, Tahoe division manager of El Dorado County Environmental Health, said people should stay away from the area and any standing water around the spill site for at least 72 hours. “We are also concerned about the areas of the river the sewage flowed into,” Huber said. “People should not be in contact with that water for several days. There shouldn’t be any rafters in the river.” John Short, chief of regulation and enforcement for Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, said Lahontan has requested STPUD submit a spill report. “We do have concerns and our staff was out on the spill and observed the cleanup crews,” Short said. “The flow of the river is high right now, but there is still a nutrient contributor to the lake. It’s good that it’s getting diluted and there’s not much recreation right now, but it doesn’t take much exposure to raw sewage to contract diseases.” The Department of Fish and Game was also notified of the spill. “It is fortunate that the flows were so high,” said Stafford Lehr, district fisheries biologist. “Most likely there was no impact to the fisheries and aquatic wildlife. It was pretty nasty. It’s one of the cumulative effects of development on the South Shore. All these little impacts make up into a bigger impact on the lake. If it had been later in the season and the flow was lower, I probably would have been more concerned for the fisheries, but the river is bank full. There’s a lot of water flowing.” STPUD crews worked on cleanup several hours Sunday evening. Chlorine could not be used because of the possibility that it would get into the river. This spill comes a little more than a month after a blocked line released about 1,500 gallons of raw sewage at the corner of Pioneer Trail and Larch Avenue. The blockage was caused by grease. Officials said that spill was greatly diluted because of storm runoff and rain, but there was some concern that once it entered the city’s storm drains it might have reached Ski Run Marina. Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com Visitors Guide | News | Diversions | Marketplace | Weather | Community Copyright, tahoe.com. Materials contained within this site may not be used without permission. About tahoe.com…

Sewage line backs up, sends spill into Tahoe Keys channel

A ball of tree roots backed up a sewer line in the Tahoe Keys on Thursday afternoon sending 50 to 100 gallons of sewage into a channel that empties into Lake Tahoe. The sewage backup was discovered by South Tahoe Public Utility District employees out doing routine maintenance around 2:45 p.m. near Ala Wai Drive. The sewage emptied into a storm drain that flows into the channel, which serves as the entrance to Tahoe Keys Marina. No sewage backed up into any homes in the area. “We caught it early,” said Dennis Cocking, district information officer. “We have spilled into the (Tahoe Keys) lagoon before over the years. There is a little more of a buffer than if it went into the lake itself, but it becomes more serious any time it enters into a waterway.” Smaller spills into waterways do not get treated with chlorine like a spill on land would. “We don’t want to chlorinate that area; it could affect the fish,” said Ginger Huber, Tahoe division manager of the El Dorado County Department of Environmental Management. Huber said it will take about two days for water in the channel to dilute the sewage to a level that is safe for the public. Officials are asking that people stay out of the area, which is marked, through the weekend. – Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com

Disturbing discovery in the lake by fisherman

Fisherman David Judd has only been boating on Lake Tahoe a few times, but on the last trip his boat went through a large slick of human waste. “I’ve only been on the lake about seven times and already I’ve gone through a big sewage spill. It was probably 150 feet in diameter. There was urine and feces and toilet paper,” said Judd, a South Lake Tahoe resident. “They had to have dumped a 50-gallon container of raw sewage to make that much. “It’s horrible.” Despite herculean efforts under way to preserve the clarity and quality of Tahoe’s water and many marinas providing sewage pump-out facilities for people to use, boaters still sometimes dispose of their sewage by dumping it into the water. “It’s disgusting people do such a thing,” said Lauri Kemper, chief of the Tahoe unit of the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. “The lake is a drinking water source for a lot of people” Kemper said it’s impossible to know how often it happens. However, she said the board has received increased complaints in the past few months. “I don’t know how big a problem it is, but it’s certainly not good,” she said. Human waste contains nitrogen and phosphorous that promotes algal growth in Tahoe, a primary reason for the lake’s ever-declining clarity. It also contains bacteria and possibly micro-organisms. Boat toilets also often contain chemicals that can be harmful to aquatic life. Lahontan has the authority to fine those who dump their waste in the lake as much as $10,000 each day it happens. The problem, however, is catching people. Lahontan does not patrol the lake. “People ask, ‘Can you guys do something?’ Yeah, if you tell us who it was,” she said. “If you see someone doing it, write down their boat ID number or license number, and you can anonymously submit it to us.” The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency patrols the lake but seeing someone do it is rare. “If we caught someone in the act, we would be able to go after a penalty of $5,000 per violation,” said Steve Chilton, chief of TRPA’s environmental compliance division. “And if someone dumps sewage in the lake, there are a number of violations we could hit them with.” Six of 16 marinas in the basin, counting ones at Fallen Leaf and Echo lakes, have working sewage pump-out facilities now, according to TRPA. Others have ones that are not operational, and TRPA is urging marina operators to fix them. Boaters who see others dumping their sewage into Lake Tahoe are encouraged to get the boat number and report it to the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, (530) 542-5400, or Tahoe Regional Planning Agency at (775) 588-4547. Marinas with working sewage pump-out facilities North Tahoe Marina – free Sierra Boat Company – free Tahoe City Marina – $5 or free with gas Meeks Marina – free Camp Richardson – $5 or free with gas Tahoe Keys Marina – $5 (Source: TRPA)

Vandals cause sewage spill

Raw sewage spilled from a manhole cover Wednesday night near Heavenly Ski Resort, and officials from the South Tahoe Public Utility District spent Thursday cleaning up the mess. “We do not have an estimate on the amount of the spill. Part of the reason is we don’t know how long it lasted,” said Ken Schroeder, STPUD manager of maintenance. A passerby saw the spill Wednesday and reported it to STPUD. The leak was a result of vandalism. Someone had lifted the manhole, thrown a log and pine cones into the sewer and covered it back up. The area where the leak happened is bounded by Keller Road, Wildwood Avenue, Pioneer Trail and Needle Peak Road. The spill flowed directly into a nearby stream which ultimately drains into a storm drain retention pond at Ski Run Boulevard and Paradise Avenue. The retention pond overflows into the Ski Run Marina area. Officials are sampling the basin and its outflow. Signs are posted urging people to avoid the area. When the area is determined to be safe, the signs will be removed. The big question: Does it stink? “No,” Schroeder said. “I couldn’t smell anything.”

Sewage flows at Pioneer Trail

About 1,500 gallons of raw sewage bubbled out of a manhole at the corner of Pioneer Trail and Larch Avenue Wednesday. South Tahoe Public Utility District officials said the sewer line was clogged with grease. Ginger Huber, Tahoe division manager for El Dorado County’s environmental health management, investigated the spill and said she doesn’t believe there is any serious risk to the basin’s environment or wildlife. “The spill was greatly diluted because of the storm run-off and the rain,” Huber explained. Huber said her department’s concern is to make sure that for at least the next 48 hours no residents or pets are allowed in any standing puddles or flowing streams in the Wildwood Avenue area between Pioneer Trail and U.S. Highway 50. “It was raw sewage and there are potentials for infectious diseases like hepatitis A and Giardia,” Huber cautioned. STPUD crews arrived at the site at 9:30 a.m. It took an hour for the clog to be cleared. The sewer water flowed down Larch Avenue and then cut through three private properties before hitting Wildwood Avenue. The sewage traveled down the east side gutter of Wildwood Avenue to U.S. Highway 50 where it entered the city’s storm drains. STPUD spokesperson Dawn Forsythe said testing by environmental specialists showed a barely detectable amount of sewage actually reached the city storm drains. Forsythe said that because of the high precipitation Wednesday morning the city drainage systems were flowing into Ski Run Marina. Chris Adair, an associate water resource control engineer for Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, was also on scene. “I’m not convinced that anything made it to the lake,” Adair said. “I don’t believe we’re looking at a significant problem.” Adair didn’t think the spill would have any effect on lake clarity. Adair said there would also be no fines lodged against STPUD for the spill. “Fines wouldn’t even factor into this,” Adair said. “These things happen. STPUD was really on the ball. They were there as soon as they heard about it and they got the blockage removed as soon as possible.” Forsythe said test results from the marina wouldn’t be available for at least 24 hours, but as a precaution water activities at the marina and the adjacent beaches are not advised for the next 48 hours. Forsythe said the caution shouldn’t affect boaters as long as they stay out of the water. Clean up crews also placed granulated chlorine on all the dirt surfaces and private yards that the flow passed over to reduce any possible health risk. “It’s the same stuff they use in swimming pools,” Forsythe explained. Forsythe said the most common cause of clogged sewer lines is grease. STPUD spends more than $520,000 every year in a regular grease-cleaning maintenance program. Three trucks clean 1 to 1 1/2 miles every day depending on the weather. “How often this happens all depends on human activity,” Forsythe said. The last back up Forsythe remembers was caused by disposable diapers being flushed down a toilet. SIDEBAR BOX STPUD recommends that grease be placed in an empty coffee can where it can solidify in the refrigerator. Once the can is full, secure the lid with tape and put it out with the trash. Another cause of sewer backups if from “extraneous” debris being flushed down toilets. People should flush only feces, urine and toilet paper – no disposable diapers or hygiene products. Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com Visitors Guide | News | Diversions | Marketplace | Weather | Community Copyright, tahoe.com. Materials contained within this site may not be used without permission. About tahoe.com…

Spill focus shifts to city

South Lake Tahoe’s utility district won’t be fined for a sewage spill Wednesday that sent 1,500 gallons of untreated sewage into the city’s storm drains, said a regional water-quality official. But the city may be responsible for pumping tainted water out of a treatment pond into Tahoe Meadows, said Lauri Kemper, chief of the Lake Tahoe Unit with Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. The raw sewage bubbled out of a manhole at Pioneer Trail and Larch Avenue Wednesday when an accumulation of grease blocked an 8-inch sewage collector line. The spill occurred after two days of steady rain pelted Lake Tahoe Airport with 1.42 inches of precipitation. When the wastewater flowed into a storm drain, it was flushed by the storm runoff into an existing treatment pond south of U.S. Highway 50, with a portion then flowing into an interim treatment pond near the McDonald’s restaurant at Wildwood Avenue. Officials are uncertain how much of the contaminated runoff overflowed into Ski Run Marina and how much was still left in the treatment pond when a contractor pumped water from the pond, filtered it and spread it on the ground to let it soak in. However, with the ground already saturated, some of the water ended up in a ditch that runs through Tahoe Meadows. State water-quality rules prohibit the diversion of treatment pond water into Lake Tahoe, but Kemper said some of the water that was pumped from the pond entered a ditch at Tahoe Meadows, where it drained into the lake. So far, it is unclear how much of the sewage contamination remained in the pond when the city contractor pumped it, or how much had infiltrated into the soil before entering the ditch. Chuck Taylor, an associate civil engineer with the city, said the contractor, White Rock Construction of Gardnerville, halted the pumping as soon as residents of Tahoe Meadows notified the city that water was running in the ditch. The city will complete a spill report and submit it to Lahontan. Kemper said White Rock, working on the Ski Run Redevelopment Project, filtered the pond water through “4-by-4” square bags, which cleans most suspended solids from the water. Ginger Huber of the El Dorado County health department advised Tahoe Meadows residents who have private wells to contact her at 573-3450 to have the water tested. The temporary treatment pond will be replaced by two larger ponds before the redevelopment project is completed. Urban runoff draining into the ponds is filtered by wetland vegetation and is relatively clean by the time it exits the pond. Contractors will use fill dirt scraped from the former Lake Christopher to line the treatment ponds. The California Tahoe Conservancy and the city restored the Cold Creek wetland at Lake Christopher in one of the first wetland restoration projects at Lake Tahoe. When city contractors used fill dirt from the Cold Creek wetland to line the first two treatment ponds, officials were surprised to see a variety of wetland plants spring up when water flowed into the ponds and germinated seeds that had been in the dirt. Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com Visitors Guide | News | Diversions | Marketplace | Weather | Community Copyright, tahoe.com. Materials contained within this site may not be used without permission. About tahoe.com…

Officials won’t say how much sewage spilled

KINGS BEACH – For the third day water quality officials declined to specify how much raw sewage was spilled here. Tuesday’s sewage spill at Lake Tahoe’s North Shore has had no initial impact on water quality in Incline Village and Crystal Bay, officials say. However, the size of the spill, the number of gallons of raw sewage that reached the lake or what long-term effects the spill will have on the lake or water supply have not been released by officials involved in the cleanup. South Shore beaches are not affected by the spill and remain open. “We do have initial test results, but we are analyzing them and awaiting approval to release them,” said Mike Fitch, spokesperson for Placer County. All public and private beaches in Kings Beach were evacuated Tuesday afternoon and will be closed up to 10 days. The spill occurred when a private contractor ruptured a 14-inch sewage pipeline 40 to 50 feet off the shoreline. Sewage spilled for five hours and the line wasn’t repaired until 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. There is no smell or visible signs of the spill on the beaches. Cleanup crews will continue to vacuum ponds near the spill. Also, 2 inches of sand will be removed from the most affected area at North Tahoe Beach and 1,000 feet westward. Long-term impacts the spill will have, both environmentally and economically, are yet to be determined. Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, the agency in charge of the investigation, noted penalties could reach up to $10 for every gallon spilled. Lauri Kemper, an engineer and division manager for Lahontan, said there is a lot of investigative work to be done before impacts have been determined and any potential fines are levied. “Right now we’re collecting data from the North Tahoe Public Utilities District to decide the extent of damage to the area,” Kemper said. “There are a number of factors under the California Water Code that decide what financial liability is involved and who is responsible for it.” While the beaches in Kings Beach will be closed, beach-goers can visit more than a dozen other beaches in North Lake Tahoe that were not affected by the sewage spill. Open public beaches include Sand Harbor and Sandy Beach, two miles south of Incline Village; Agatam Beach and Moon Dunes Beach off Highway 28 in Tahoe Vista; Carnelian Bay Beach and Patton Beach in Carnelian Bay; Commons Beach in Tahoe City; Lake Forest Beach Park, one mile west of Tahoe City; Chambers Landing, DL Bliss State Park, Meeks Bay Recreation Area, Elizabeth Williams Park, Emerald Bay State Park, Sugar Pine Point and William Kent Beach all on the West Shore off Highway 89. For updated information on the sewage spill, contact the utility district at (530) 546-4212 or visit http://www.ntpud.org.