County: MTBE treatment system must be turned on |

County: MTBE treatment system must be turned on

El Dorado County environment officials say they will lock up pumps at an Emerald Bay Road gas station if its owner doesn’t start operating a groundwater treatment system on the property.

The system was installed at Swiss Mart Food & Gas in 1998 to treat MTBE-laced groundwater. State officials discovered a gasoline additive had leaked from underground tanks and contaminated groundwater in the area and a private well on Eloise Avenue.

Water officials met with Swiss Mart owners, Sarbjit “Sam” Kang, of South Lake Tahoe, and Azad Amiri, of Concord, Calif., on Thursday to discuss the problem.

“The meeting went well,” said Lisa Dernbach, a senior engineering geologist at the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. “The parties promised to get back to us next week with an estimated date when (work) will resume at the site.”

If state water officials tell the county that Kang and Amiri refuse to pay to turn the treatment system back on, the county will issue a notice to the owners to shut down the station in 30 days, said Ginger Huber, an environmental manager for the county.

Kang declined to speak about the situation on Thursday.

MTBE, which stands for methyl tertiary butyl ether, poses a potential health risk for water supplies. El Dorado County banned use of the gasoline additive in 2000.

State water officials and the Attorney General’s Office have struggled to get the owners of the station to comply with directives since December 2001 when $1.5 million in state cleanup funds dried up.

The treatment system got up and running in November 2002, but again was shut down Jan. 15, Dernbach said.

Kang and Amiri also own the Meyers Beacon. They bought it at public auction for $200,000.

Last summer, the county locked the gas pumps at the station because the partners failed to file required paperwork at the Recorder’s Office. The station remains closed.

Kang and Amiri also own two other gas stations at South Shore. Called American Gasoline, at 1140 Emerald Bay Road and 2762 Highway 50, the stations were purchased from USA Petroleum for $2.5 million in December 2001.

MTBE water treatment at those stations is being paid for by USA Petroleum, said Chuck Kurtis, supervising engineer at Lahontan.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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