Gas station set to provide cleanup plan
A Cave Rock property owner has submitted plans to clean up soil and groundwater contaminated by MTBE and other gasoline compounds at the Cave Rock Country Store, an act he has essentially ignored for months.
Robert Hager, who owns and leases out the Cave Rock convenience store and gas station, had until Feb. 16 to submit an acceptable cleanup plan to the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. NDEP received the plan, but it was incomplete.
However, Hager’s consultant promised the completed report would be forthcoming, according to Doug Zimmerman, chief of the bureau of corrective actions for NDEP.
“At this point, it still looks like he will give us an acceptable plan, and he will be doing the work,” Zimmerman said.
Last year, the underground storage tanks at the site were removed, and NDEP found evidence in the soil of gasoline compounds, including MTBE and benzene. A site characterization plan was originally due in August, which would reveal how big the contaminant plume is and the extent of the problem it has caused. Until this week, a plan had not been submitted.
Acting on behalf of the NDEP, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office in December filed a complaint in Douglas County District Court against Hager. The Attorney General’s Office and Hager signed a stipulation order last week, requiring Hager to comply with various cleanup efforts.
Within seven days after NDEP has determined the plan acceptable, Hager must start remediation.
If Hager’s plans become unacceptable, NDEP has permission from Douglas County District Court to take over remediation. Hager would be required to reimburse the agency.
The complaint filed in Douglas County also alleges that as early as January 1997, Hager knew – or should have known – that the one of the underground tanks was leaking. He never reported any problems to NDEP, which he is required by law to do. Hager is accused of violating Nevada water pollution control laws and hazardous materials storage tanks laws. NDEP is requesting the maximum civil penalty of $25,000 a day for each day of the violation for the former regulation and $5,000 for each day of the latter, which could equate to several million dollars.
The financial aspect of the suit could end up in trial, and Douglas County’s district court judge, if he sides with Nevada, will ultimately determine the amount of the penalty.
MTBE from the contamination has reached a nearby stream that flows directly into Lake Tahoe. Two nearby residential wells have also been contaminated, and Hager has been providing bottled water to the occupants.
There has been a large hole in front of the store since the tanks were dug up last year. NDEP also is requiring that it be filled in by Feb. 26, and any contaminated soil stockpiled at the site must be removed.
While not the owner of the property and not responsible for the contamination, John Close is the business owner of the Cave Rock Country Store. He said he is happy the cleanup is finally happening.
“Our business right now is about a third of what it used to be,” he said. “You drive by, and there’s a fence up with dirt around it. It looks like we’re not even open.”
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