Lahontan fines Keys group |

Lahontan fines Keys group

Andy Bourelle

After nine months of unsuccessful negotiations, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board fined the Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association $260,000 for allegedly releasing 858 million gallons of contaminated water into the Lake Tahoe.

The two groups had been trying to work out an agreement since late last year; however, Lahontan has not been satisfied with any of the proposed plans.

TKPOA has the option of appealing the fine at Lahontan’s October board meeting. A settlement before then also is possible.

The Keys water treatment facility draws water and adds a chemical called alum, which contains aluminum. Alum particles attach to pieces of sediment in the water, and they settle inside the plant. When the water is discharged back into the lake, the alum and sediment are supposed to stay in the plant.

However, too much alum was used when the plant was used last summer. From Aug. 6 to Aug. 31, 1998, Lahontan officials believe, the treatment facility released 858 million gallons of aluminum-contaminated water. Tahoe Keys West Lagoon and Marina can hold only 480 million gallons, meaning the treatment plant pulled in water contaminated with aluminum and added more of the toxic substance to it.

Levels of the dissolved metal in the Tahoe Keys’ water exceeded chronic toxicity levels for aquatic life but not acute toxicity levels, meaning the pollution would not kill aquatic life immediately but could affect their reproduction, ability to defend themselves from predators and potentially shorten their life spans.

The association is under no mandate to run the plant, but its operation is believed to benefit the water clarity and quality. The treatment plant had not been operated in years because of the drought earlier in the 1990s, and Keys officials felt the water quality in years since the drought was acceptable. The association started it in August 1998, essentially to make sure it was working OK, officials have said.

Lahontan claims the property owners association was negligent because the water board warned the association the plant might have problems. A simple test before the startup of the plant would have revealed exactly how much alum was needed and the association should have known that the aluminum was contaminating the water before 26 days had passed.

The property owners organization’s general manager is new to the job and declined to comment Tuesday. The board’s president is on vacation and was not available for comment.

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