City Council prepares for MTBE ban |

City Council prepares for MTBE ban

Five months ago the City Council adopted a resolution that stated board members would “consider a ban of the use of MTBE within the city of South Lake Tahoe … if other government agencies do not take action by April 1, 1999.”

Guess what? April 1 isn’t too far away.

Several bills have been introduced into the state legislature calling for a ban of the controversial fuel additive, and a decision by Gov. Gray Davis is expected within weeks concerning MTBE’s future. Right now, however, nothing has happened.

“Enough of us on the council feel really strongly about this, and if the governor doesn’t act, we will,” said Judy Brown, mayor of South Lake Tahoe. “It’s just a matter of coming up with something we can enforce.”

Discussions about the possibility will continue at the council’s meeting Tuesday.

“We have asked the district to update us on what’s going on with the governor and with the various bills, as a prelude to a possible April meeting where we would consider action on banning it,” Brown said.

Kerry Miller, city manager, said the council and city staff would be discussing possible actions that could be taken.

“The council made it very clear, I think, they want this substance out of our groundwater,” Miller said. “They’re ready to take whatever reasonable action is necessary to eradicate this substance.”

South Shore’s primary water supplier appreciates the effort.

“It depends on the governor, but from my discussions with city staff, they are preparing for the worst,” said Dawn Forsythe, STPUD information officer. “Together we are investigating the mechanism of how to institute a ban if that is in fact what the city wants to do.”

The biggest concern of city officials, if South Lake Tahoe must take the action, Brown said, is finding a way to enforce it.

“What good would it do to pass something that’s not enforceable?” Brown said. “Unless we pass something with teeth in it, what good is it?”

STPUD’s water system supplies about 30,000 people through about 12,500 connections, and at times the total population served is as high as 60,000. Since September 1997, more than one-third of STPUD’s wells have been closed because of MTBE. The district’s customers faced mandatory water-usage restrictions for much of last summer and may have to comply with the same this coming summer. To date, MTBE-related costs for the district are about $1.5 million.

Because of California legislation passed last year, the University of California Davis completed a study on MTBE late last year, and public hearings were held last month on the subject. Based on the research and the hearings, the governor is expected to soon make a decision on MTBE’s future in California.

One possible action he could take is a phase out of the additive, eliminating it from the places most impacted by its contamination, such as South Lake Tahoe.

If Davis doesn’t take what South Shore officials consider to be appropriate action, the city council likely will address the issue for action at its April 13 meeting.

In further city action at the Tuesday meeting, the City Council, South Tahoe Redevelopment Agency and South Tahoe Joint Powers Financing Authority will review the 1997/’98 fiscal year annual audit, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

A report and information on the city’s Y2K Compliance Program will be given during the regular City Council meeting which begins at 6 p.m.

-Tribune Staff Writer Sarah Gonser contributed to this report

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