Hazmat spill hits the Keys Marina
As asphalt workers began work on a Tahoe Keys Marina access road Tuesday, they noticed water spouting from a drain about 100 yards away.
Within the minutes the pavement in front of them began to rise like rolling lava.
“Water just started bubbling right out of the ground,” said crew foreman Ben Moresi.
Moresi and his crew from Hal & Sons Paving Co. had just started apply a seal coat to the pavement when the water erupted about 11:45 a.m. Within minutes, thousands of gallons of water flooded the work site and began draining into the lagoon.
The incident drew a quick response from police, fire and environmental agencies as the flood of water and sediment mixed with the sealant. Moresi and his crew covered the drain with a tarp, blocking most of the escaping water from entering the lagoon.
The water was shut off within 30 minutes, but not before covering the roadway with a pool about 75 yards long.
A preliminary investigation by the South Lake Tahoe Police Department suggests that a water main under the road may have broken when nearby construction crews used a fire hydrant to fill up their water trucks. The crews were working about a half-mile away on a wetlands restoration project.
“Right now it is only a guess, but it’s likely that is what caused this,” officer Chuck Owens said. Workers reported feeling the ground surge Tuesday as they turned the hydrant on and off, Owens said.
Fire and police officials cordoned off the area as a potential hazardous materials spill. Attention quickly shifted to setting up a floating containment barrier and getting the water-soluble asphalt sealant out of the lagoon. Responding agencies included the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, El Dorado County Environmental Management Agency, South Lake Tahoe Public Works and the South Tahoe Public Utility District.
While the sealant was deemed to be fairly benign, the contaminated water was pumped out of the lagoon and into a nearby field designed to hold dredged materials.
“In being cautious, we have decided to get it out of the water and pump it over to the soil,” said Ginger Huber, Tahoe Division Manager of the county environmental agency. “We can always dig up the soil later,” she added, alluding to the difficulty of controlling a water-borne contaminant.
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