Lahontan finally ready to level fines |

Lahontan finally ready to level fines

Andy Bourelle

Now that the decision-making body of the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board has a quorum, the fate of several fines pending against Lake Tahoe gas stations will soon be addressed.

Five Tahoe stations are scheduled to appeal hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fines at Lahontan’s October meeting for delinquent cleanup efforts in groundwater contamination situations.

Until this month, Lahontan’s board has not held a meeting this year because there was no quorum. Lahontan has been issuing administrative civil liabilities – or fines – all year. However, the recipients of those fines have the right to an appeal before the board within 60 days. Therefore, the agency’s staff repeatedly withdrew, revised and now reissued the fines.

Lauri Kemper, chief of Lahontan’s Tahoe unit, said it’s possible agreements could be reached between Lahontan and some of the parties before the Oct. 13 and 14 hearings.

The fines include:

n The USA station at the “Y” faces the biggest, in the amount of $343,000. Kemper said the fine is for past recalcitrance in complying with Lahontan’s orders. More fines could come, she said, but officials are trying to avoid that.

“There may be new administrative civil liabilities assessed in the future, but we’re working with them to get them into compliance,” she said.

The USA station is believed to be the source for the largest contaminant plume on South Shore. It has contaminated numerous drinking water wells.

n Exhibiting contamination nearly that extensive, South Lake Tahoe’s Swiss Mart is being fined $56,250. At Lahontan’s September meeting, the board postponed its decision on this fine.

A Lukins Brothers Water Co. well and several private wells have been contaminated by this plume, Kemper said.

n The same owners and operators are facing a $59,000 fine for the Kings Beach Swiss Mart. At the September meeting, the board upheld a $36,000 fine for that site.

n Lahontan for a year now has been cleaning up the contamination at the Meyers Beacon, and for each day that the station owners and operators don’t take over, Lahontan fines them $500. That is the statutory minimum; the maximum could be $5,000 a day.

At the upcoming meeting, an appeal hearing will be held for a $225,000 fine.

n Additionally, Lake Tahoe Winter Sports Co. will have the opportunity to appeal a $4,000 fine for a diesel leak that happened at Lake Tahoe Golf Course earlier this year.

Lahontan, one of nine regional boards comprising the California Water Quality Control Board, is responsible for protecting water quality in a 570-mile area from the Oregon border to the northern Mojave Desert.

Meetings usually happen once a month. However, the nine-member board had been without a quorum for most of 1999 after Gov. Gray Davis withdrew the nominations of more than 100 people picked by his predecessor to serve in an array of key state jobs.

What: Lahontan meeting

When: Oct. 13, 1:30 to 5 p.m.; Oct. 14, 8:30 a.m.

Where: City Council Chambers, 1900 Lake Tahoe Blvd.

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